The Flag of Canada

History of the Canadian Flag Canada is a member of the British Commonwealth, a federation of independent nations with ties to Great Britain, so the history of its flag, or flags, is bound up with different British flags. In fact, it didn’t adopt the distinctive red and white Maple Leaf design as its flag until 1965. Before that, as a member of the Commonwealth, Canada was simply represented under the Union Flag, the flag of Great Britain. When they did need their own flag, Canada used the Red Ensign, which combined both British and Canadian designs. The presence or absence of a distinctively Canadian flag, apart from the British flag, has always been a controversial issue, but in 1964 three designs were presented to parliament as possible Canadian flags, and the red and white Maple Leaf design was chosen. One of the reasons this design proved so popular was that when tested under high wind conditions, the maple leaf remained clear and easy to discern. The Meaning of its Colors and Symbols The red and white design has many important meanings, but among the most important is the associate of those colors with the Flag of St. George. The St. George flag is a red cross on a white background, and symbolizes the ideal of fighting evil and preserving purity. This was the first flag to use a tri-band design of a central square panel surrounded by two rectangular panels of different colors—a design now known as the Canadian Pale, and used by several other countries. The central panel is white, and the two side panels are red. An 11-point red maple leaf is featured on the central white panel, reflecting Canada’s official colors of red and white. The red is taken from the St. George Cross, and the white from the royal emblem of France. The maple leaf has been a symbol for Canada for a long time, and celebrates the beauty of nature to be found throughout the country. Different Variations of the Flag of Canada The St. George’s Cross was the first flag ever flown in Canada, when British explorers landed in Newfoundland in 1497 and planted it there. Soon after, the French flew a similar flag, but red with a white cross. From that time on, flags in Canada tended to feature either the fleur-de-lis of France or the Union Jack of England. Canada has flown many different flags, because even though it has been content to be part of the British Commonwealth and fly their flag, it has also felt the need to proclaim its own, separate identity. One of the most popular and widely used designs before the Maple Leaf was adopted was called the Canadian Red Ensign. The Red Ensign took many different forms, but was so widely used that it almost became the national flag of Canada. The Red Ensign features a red background, with a Union Jack in the top left corner, and some design occupying the field in the right half of the flag. That design could be a gold maple leaf, the coat of arms of a province, or a combination of any of those things. However, of all the possible designs, the current Maple Leaf design was unanimously approved by parliament and proclaimed by Queen Elizabeth II.