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Red Maple Leaf: Insights Into The Canadian Flag



The Canadian flag turned 52 years old on February 15th, 2017. Many of you keep a Canadian flag as a memory of your time here at VGC and everyone recognizes the bold, red maple leaf as a Canadian symbol. We wanted to take the National Flag Day of Canada as an occasion to give you some more insights and a brief history of the beautiful Canadian flag.

Every Canadian province and territory has their own flag. The symbol that represents the country as a whole is the National Flag of Canada, with the maple leaf that we all know and love. For almost a century, Canada did not have an official flag of its own. From 1868 to 1965 both the British Union Flag and the Canadian Red Ensign were used as Canadian flags.

A Brief History

Before choosing the final version of the flag that we know today, a national debate took place in 1963 and 1964 to choose the new design, also known as the Great Canadian Flag Debate. Prime Minister Lester B. Person officially proposed his plans for a new flag in the House of Commons on June 15, 1964 to resolve the issue of not having an official Canadian flag. A new flag was supposed to replace the Union Flag and thus a special flag committee was created. What followed was a long debate that divided the people involved. The design process was open to the public and thousands of submissions were made, like the ones below:


George Stanley, a professor at the Royal Military College of Canada, suggested the design for a new flag in 1964. It was a vertically divided flag with red, white and red in equal parts and a red maple leaf in the center. He wanted the maple leaf to stand out as a Canadian symbol and argued that a simple flag like that could be seen clearly from a distance. This suggestion was finally chosen by the committee.

The debate was officially ended on December 15, 1964 and the Maple Leaf flag was adopted as the new national flag. The version initially had a leaf with 13 points, as pictured below, but was then changed into having 11 points as we know it today. This supposedly showed up best on a model flag when flapping in the wind.



On February 15, 1965 the national flag was inaugurated and raised for the first time on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. In 1996, February 15 was declared as National Flag of Canada Day and has been observed every year since.

Flag Etiquette

There are official guidelines from the Canadian government on how to display the Canadian flag to honour it and treat it with respect. You may not mark it in any way or use it as a seat cover or as a table cloth. There are also certain rules for hanging the flag: when vertically hanging in a street, the stem of the leaf should always be eastward on a north-south-street and northward on an east-west street. Learn about all rules on the website of the Canadian government.

Nice to know

  • The Canadian flag is twice as long as it’s wide and the white proportion in the middle is the perfect square. No other flag in the world has this proportion!
  • The largest Canadian flag ever made, according to Flying Colours International, was 38 meters by 76 meters and was unveiled in 2009 at a football game in Hamilton. It needed 80 pairs of hands to be carried out to the field!
  • The flag on the Peace Tower is changed on a daily basis; the other flags on Parliament Hill are changed weekly. There is a designated employee who is trained specifically to perform this task. Once the flags are taken down they are given away for free to Canadian residents who have requested to receive one. Be aware though that the waiting period ranges between 50 and 63 years at the moment!

The Canadian flag is by far the most popular souvenir our students take home when they return from their English course in Vancouver. We hope that this article give you some more insight and a few facts for you to impress your friends or teachers! If you want know what the flag of British Columbia looks like and also learn some new facts about out province make sure to read this post.

[custom_author=Henriette Freese]