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The maple leaf flag

By FreeNSK in Culture
Thu Feb 17, 2005 at 11:03:45 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

On 15 February 1965, Canada introduced its own flag to symbolise its independence and unity. The flag of Canada, also known as the Maple Leaf Flag, is unique from many standpoints.

On 15 February 1965, Canada introduced its own flag to symbolise its independence and unity.

The flag of Canada, also known as the Maple Leaf Flag or the One-leaved (in French: l'Unifolié), is unique from many standpoints:

  • It is the only flag tested under various wind velocities at a wind tunnel research laboratory.
  • Its commercial use is protected by trade mark laws.
  • It has what was termed a Canadian Pale by vexillologists and heraldists: A big pale centred on the flag which covers half of its width. Pales, in Vexillology and Heraldry, are vertical stripes that usually cover only 1/3 of a flag's width. Many municipal and local flags in Canada also have Canadian pales, but no other national flags employ this design.
  • Its symbol is a maple leaf, a reference to Canada's environment and natural beauty (although, eh, cold!). The leaf has 11 points but some old representations of the flag showed 15 points because they tripled the 2 bottom points.
  • Its official colours, designated by King George V of United Kingdom in 1921, are references to St. George's cross (national flag of England from 1277) and the French royal emblem since King Charles VII of France.
  • It is instantly recognisable by most people around the world because of the aforementioned unique characteristics.

Some history:

Canada was initially inhabited by the First Nations for more than 10000 years and the Inuit from 500 CE, before the Vikings visited Canada around the 11th century, who withdrew without establishing settlements after the violent reaction of the locals. In the 15th century Basque fishermen began fishing the Grand Banks near Newfoundland, one of the richest fishing regions of our planet. Later in the 16th and 17th centuries, first the French and later the British settled in Canada and built the first organised West-European colonies there. However, the colonisation was not a peaceful process, since the First Peoples were very determined to defend their land.

Although there were numerous armed conflicts between the two European powers in Canada, the French and the British, the Europeans finally became the dominant power in most of Canada and together with their culture they also brought their flags: In 1497 Cabot carried the St. George's Cross flag while approaching the east coast of Canada; before 1763 the most common flag in the colonies of New France (Nouvelle France) and Quebec was the fleur-de-lis; the Union flag was used in the British colonies of Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

In 1812, the United States (population: 7.5 millions, force: 100000) declared war on United Kingdom and attacked Canada (population: 0.5 million, force: 50000). Canadians successfully defended their land and the Americans suffered much more casualties (12000) than the French/British-trained Canadian forces (5000). The war of 1812 caused a sudden rise of strong national identity sentiments in Canada and united its French and English inhabitants. A truly Canadian national identity was well established, and it was not too long until Canadians started feeling that they should have a distinct national flag.

By 1868, a new flag began to appear unofficially: The Canadian Red Ensign. In 1945 the flag became nearly official when its use in government buildings and the parliament was allowed. Later, in 1925, a committee was established to choose a new national flag for Canada, but its work was never completed. In 1946 there was another unsuccessful maneuver to change the flag.

The Maple Leaf flag:

The centennial celebration of the Confederation was approaching and prime minister Lester Bowles Pearson informed the House of Commons in 1964 that the government wanted to introduce a national flag. Despite strong opposition by former prime minister John George Diefenbaker, a committee was set up to choose a new flag for Canada.

After about 5900 submissions, 3 proposed designs were selected for final consideration:

  • A Red Ensign with the fleur-de-lys and the Union Jack.
  • A design with 3 red maple leaves (prime minister preferred a version of this flag designed by Alan Beddoe, which had two blue borders symbolising the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, nicknamed the "Pearson Pennant").
  • A red flag with a single red maple leaf on a white square, created by designed by George Stanley.

Several heraldists analysed the proposed flags and tried to find out which one was the most "Canadian". Fortescue Duguid, a historian with heraldy expertise, and Alan Beddoe, a heraldy adviser of the Royal Canadian Navy, both favoured the 3-leaf flag. Although most Canadians liked the idea of having a new flag, there was much opposition to the Pearson Pennant design. John Diefenbaker, while speaking to the parliament, once said: "this flag will only be passed over by my dead body".

For more than 30 days there was very intense controversy in the parliament, and Diefenbaker and his party issued over 200 speeches. Because of the debate, discussions for other programmes (which could be considered much more important for the people's daily life), like the Canada Pension Plan, were completely stalled. To resolve the situation, the prime minister assigned to a 15-member committee headed by Liberal MP John Matheson to make the final decision.

In 1964, George Francis Gillman Stanley, a Calgary-born author, historian, public servant, soldier and teacher, who was educated in the University of Alberta and the Oxford University, and held several advanced academic degrees (D.Phil., M.A., M.Litt. and two B.A.), was at the Royal Military College. The college was using a red-white-red 3-pale flag featuring a college crest with 3 maple leaves held by a mailed fist. This design inspired Stanley to propose a similar red-white-red theme, but with a red maple leaf instead. In October, Matheson and NDP MP Reid Scott seemed to like Stanley's flag.

The single maple leaf design had many advantages: It was neutral and it could help Quebec to stay content within the Confederation. According to Matheson's book "the fight for a flag was a fight to save Canada" (source). Several people were afraid that the Confederation could someday collapse and that the French-speaking Quebec could separate from the rest English-speaking provinces. Back in 1946 Quebec demanded the exclusion of all foreign symbols from any Canadian flag. By 1963 the police was concerned by the activities of a small but very violent terrorist organisation calling itself Quebec Liberation Front (Front de Libération du Quebec) which was seeking to establish a socialist independent state in Quebec by force. There was surely some anti-Confederation or anti-British sentiment in Quebec which needed to be balanced with a neutral symbol of unity and inter-cultural cooperation. What could be better than a maple leaf, which symbolises the land that all Canadians love?

The maple leaf has a long history in the Canadian psyche. Its first documented use was in 1834 by the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste, and in 1836 a newspaper (Le Canadien) proposed that it would be a suitable symbol for Canada. In 1860 it was used for decorations during the visit of the Prince of Wales to Canada. Alexander Muir wrote "The Maple Leaf Forever" in 1867, and it was considered a national song for many years then. In 1904 the athletes of Canada in the Games of the III Olympiad (in St. Louis, Missouri, USA) used maple leaf symbols on their uniforms. Later, in the First World War, the maple leaf was a symbol of the Canadian forces. It was used again in the Second World War, when many Canadian tanks were featuring a maple leaf on them, together with many heroic Canadian soldiers, many of them volunteers, who helped to save Europe from the Nazi invaders.

There are many maple species, and the committee relied on photographs produced by the Dominion Forest Service to choose the exact variety which was the most familiar to Canadians: The hard sugar maple tree leaves. The natural leaf has about 23 points, but the stylised version has only 11 because, according to Matheson's book, they can "visually multiply as the wind speed increases".

The exact size and the placement of the leaf on the flag was selected after thorough study and tests under varying wind velocities at the National Research Laboratory Wind Tunnel.

The flag was finally approved by the committee in December 1964 and on 15 February 1965 the maple leaf flag became the official national flag of Canada, with the agreement of Queen Elizabeth II.

Commercial use of the Canadian flag is protected by the trade-marks act. Typically, the flag must always be displayed in a dignified manner.

The text of this article is (C) Copyright 2005 by Nikolaos S. Karastathis. You are welcome to use the text under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence, as long as this copyright notice and the link to its original location remain intact: http://portal.wikinerds.org/canada-flag



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What do you think of Canada?
o Canada rules! 62%
o It's just a country like all others 27%
o Sorry, but I would prefer to live on the Moon instead of Canada 10%

Votes: 85
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o wind tunnel
o trade mark
o Canadian Pale
o vexillolog ists
o heraldists
o Vexillolog y
o Heraldry
o maple leaf
o environmen t
o beauty
o eh
o cold
o King George V
o United Kingdom
o St. George's cross
o England
o King Charles VII
o France
o Canada
o inhabited
o First Nations
o Inuit
o Vikings
o visited
o 11th century
o 15th century
o Basque
o Grand Banks
o Newfoundla nd
o our planet
o 16th
o 17th
o French
o British
o West-Europ ean
o colonisati on
o First Peoples
o defend
o conflicts
o Europeans
o culture
o flags
o Cabot
o New France
o Quebec
o fleur-de-l is
o Union flag
o Newfoundla nd [2]
o Nova Scotia
o New Brunswick
o United States
o war
o defended
o national identity sentiments
o Canadian Red Ensign
o parliament
o prime minister
o Lester Bowles Pearson
o John George Diefenbaker
o submission s
o Atlantic
o Pacific
o oceans
o Pearson Pennant
o George Stanley
o Royal Canadian Navy
o Canada Pension Plan
o MP
o John Matheson
o Calgary
o University of Alberta
o Oxford University
o D.Phil.
o M.A.
o M.Litt.
o B.A.
o Royal Military College
o Reid Scott
o source
o Quebec Liberation Front
o psyche
o Wales
o Alexander Muir
o The Maple Leaf Forever
o Nazi
o maple
o sugar maple
o Queen Elizabeth II
o protected
o trade-mark s act
o Nikolaos S. Karastathis
o Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence
o http://por tal.wikinerds.org/canada-flag
o The National Flag of Canada
o Matheson and the national flag of Canada
o CBC documentary
o Matheson's book
o Canada's Digital Collections
o Flag proposals
o Matheson
o The Flags of Canada
o Old French flags
o Educationa l activity
o How to immigrate to Canada
o Also by FreeNSK

Display: Sort:
The maple leaf flag | 93 comments (34 topical, 59 editorial, 0 hidden)
+1 FP (1.40 / 5) (#9)
by Pirate on Tue Feb 15, 2005 at 11:25:20 PM EST

Some may complain that it's too Canadian centric but I've always been curious as to what the crazy people in my attic do.

you have (3.00 / 3) (#10)
by statichavoc on Tue Feb 15, 2005 at 11:31:02 PM EST

them in your attic too? Phew! and i thought I was the only one!

[ Parent ]
In your attic?... (none / 0) (#87)
by QillerPenguin on Sat Feb 19, 2005 at 02:41:42 PM EST

Shit, half the people who should be in the attic are sunning themselves right now in the basement!

I live in Orlando, and I swear a good third of the car tags I see are Canuckistani. And the other two-thirds are from those miserable states that border Canada.

Yet, all the Canadians I've met have been realy nice people. Certainly a lot nicer than those damn Nue-Yawkers that have overrun my used-to-be beautiful Sun Shine State.
"All your Unix are belong to us" - SCO, 2003.
[ Parent ]

canada is a country? (1.26 / 15) (#12)
by circletimessquare on Wed Feb 16, 2005 at 12:54:38 AM EST

i thought it was a state near wyoming

fascinating what you learn on the internet

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

-1: Bacon-eating bastar... (1.20 / 5) (#17)
by fyngyrz on Wed Feb 16, 2005 at 02:29:16 AM EST

Just kidding. +1 section. :-)

Blog, Photos.

Greeks are hilarious (2.25 / 4) (#32)
by dteeuwen on Wed Feb 16, 2005 at 09:02:09 AM EST

they love being patriotic as if it's some kind of pastime.


Down the slopes of death he rides
The eight hooves pound like drums
Darkness reigns the crumbling sky
Invasion has begun

Patriotic? (none / 1) (#76)
by gidds on Thu Feb 17, 2005 at 05:29:16 PM EST

Well, at least they get patriotic by being proud of their country, rather than by finding things to hate about everyone else...

[ Parent ]
-1 (1.33 / 15) (#35)
by Nosf3ratu on Wed Feb 16, 2005 at 09:29:35 AM EST

Like anyone gives a fuck about Canada.



i do (none / 1) (#79)
by Cackmobile on Fri Feb 18, 2005 at 06:29:38 AM EST

Canada is cool. Like America but not up themselves.

[ Parent ]
+1 FP no mention of GNU/RMS (1.33 / 6) (#38)
by Phssthpok on Wed Feb 16, 2005 at 10:20:51 AM EST


affective flattening has caused me to kill 11,357 people

Fascinating (2.54 / 11) (#40)
by LilDebbie on Wed Feb 16, 2005 at 10:39:32 AM EST

No offense to our friendly neighbors to the north, but I much prefer the story of an old woman stitching a flag together by hand instead of testing it in a wind tunnel, but I'm old fashioned that way.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

I prefer it too (none / 1) (#94)
by GhostfacedFiddlah on Sun Feb 27, 2005 at 11:36:31 AM EST

But at least ours is true.



[ Parent ]

-1, pretends Canada is a soverign nation (1.28 / 14) (#43)
by Watersplash on Wed Feb 16, 2005 at 12:08:00 PM EST

I gave it +1 FP.... (3.00 / 3) (#58)
by Danzig on Wed Feb 16, 2005 at 11:45:30 PM EST

but I should have -1ed it for that damn CC license.

You are not a fucking Fight Club quotation.
rmg for editor!
If you disagree, moderate, don't post.
Kill whitey.
FreeNSK: (2.66 / 3) (#61)
by Kasreyn on Thu Feb 17, 2005 at 01:09:22 AM EST

Officially a bigger link-whore than kpaul.

You heard it here first!

"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
He must a frequent ... (none / 0) (#78)
by Krakhan on Thu Feb 17, 2005 at 10:05:33 PM EST

Wikipedia contributor. ;P
~ Krakhan
[ Parent ]
Well done. (2.00 / 4) (#69)
by Dr Caleb on Thu Feb 17, 2005 at 01:01:21 PM EST

I like the little jab about 1812 too. Our warmer cousins to the south really hate when we bring that up, and love to try to discredit it. "Oh, there was no Canada back then, it was the British . . .". hehehehe.

Let the flaming begin:

Vive Le Canada - For Canadians who give a shit about their country.

There is no K5 cabal.

Whatever man.. (none / 0) (#70)
by naitha on Thu Feb 17, 2005 at 02:46:29 PM EST

Where's your army now?

"To listen is an effort, and just to hear is no merit. A duck hears also."
-Igor Stravinsky,
[ Parent ]
Right Now? (3.00 / 4) (#73)
by Dr Caleb on Thu Feb 17, 2005 at 02:55:25 PM EST

Afghanistan, Bosnia, the Middle East, Korea, Cyprus, Syria, Sinai, the Western Sahara, Cambodia, Guatemala and Hati.

Why, where's yours?

Vive Le Canada - For Canadians who give a shit about their country.

There is no K5 cabal.
[ Parent ]

ZING! <NT> (none / 0) (#88)
by Subtillus on Sat Feb 19, 2005 at 06:29:58 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Gimme some matches!! (none / 1) (#72)
by dxh on Thu Feb 17, 2005 at 02:50:40 PM EST

Such a nice flag!!

Lets burn a couple!!


Trademark (none / 1) (#77)
by cpt kangarooski on Thu Feb 17, 2005 at 06:27:54 PM EST

The flag of Canada, also known as the Maple Leaf Flag or the One-leaved (in French: l'Unifolié), is unique from many standpoints: Its commercial use is protected by trade mark laws.

That doesn't sound unique to me. US trademark laws regulate what marks may be registered with regards to flags.

All my posts including this one are in the public domain. I am a lawyer. I am not your lawyer, and this is not legal advice.

I like the flag (none / 1) (#80)
by Cackmobile on Fri Feb 18, 2005 at 06:31:10 AM EST

and its about time Australia got its own flag that truly represents us. And unlike most people who have commented below Canada is cool and so are canadians. They are like americans but not wankers.

Meh (none / 0) (#81)
by Gruntathon on Fri Feb 18, 2005 at 06:53:42 AM EST

Why bother getting a new Australian flag?

Maybe if the Republic thing had gone through, the Union Jack would really need to be removed, but otherwise its nice as it is.

More importantly, I have yet to see a design for a new Australian Flag that is not ugly or offensive.
If they hadn't been such quality beasts (despite being so young) it would have been a nightmare - good self-starting, capable hands are your finest friend. -- Anonymous CEO
[ Parent ]
Boxing kangaroo (none / 0) (#91)
by Cackmobile on Mon Feb 21, 2005 at 05:34:32 AM EST

i wouldn't mind that but something thats green and gold and has the southern cross on it would be fine. and probably should have the aboriginal flag on it too.

[ Parent ]
Aboriginal flag? (none / 0) (#92)
by Jacques Chester on Mon Feb 21, 2005 at 08:26:18 PM EST

Because heck, that's a great symbol of unity.

Well now. We seem to be temporarily out of sigs here at the sig factory. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.
[ Parent ]
And that flag would be (none / 1) (#82)
by Skywise on Fri Feb 18, 2005 at 11:38:47 AM EST

A blue one with "Foster's" on it?

[ Parent ]
Throw in a Kangaroo and your set! [nt] (none / 0) (#90)
by neozeed on Sun Feb 20, 2005 at 10:51:56 PM EST

Unless you're alive you can't play. And if you don't play, you don't get to be alive.
[ Parent ]

wow (1.00 / 11) (#83)
by ShiftyStoner on Fri Feb 18, 2005 at 04:49:38 PM EST

That's fucking amazing, that people acctualy read a story about a fucking flag. A story about any flag would be gay. The nazi flag is about the only flag I would even consider reading about and im not fucking doing that.

People read a boring gay story about stupid pussy ass countries flag, then, they decided to vote the fucker up. Ummm... how many accounts you got bud? Know a couple admins or something. Or have any inteligant k5ers krept out the back without me noticing.

A story about a flag, isn't this like, something you would learn in school. CANADIAN SCHOOL! Wtf is wrong with all of you.

I'm more discusted with the voters than the wrighter acctualy. But I smell foul play. Say, are you republican. A republican canadian, hahahahahahaha.

You people act like its a bud leaf on the fucking flag. That would be a bold flag, a meaningful badass flag. A fuck you America flag.

The whole concept of the flag is pretty fucking cheasy really. Every country, that's a little bit suspisiose. how come none were just like, fuck a flag. Striped, seriously, people they are not of this fucking univers. You are all like ants or something, stupid worthless ants. That's kind of a fucked up thing to say. Ants are acctualy worth something, they have a purpose other than to cause misery and destruction.

I'm surprised ants to pack around flags you know.
( @ )'( @ ) The broad masses of a population are more amenable to the appeal of rhetoric than to any other force. - Adolf Hitler

Dr. Eh? (3.00 / 2) (#84)
by jabber on Fri Feb 18, 2005 at 05:44:44 PM EST

By 1868, a new flag began to appear unofficially: The Canadian Red Ensign. In 1945 the flag became nearly official when its use in government buildings and the parliament was allowed. Later, in 1925, a committee was established to choose a new national flag for Canada, but its work was never completed. In 1946 there was another unsuccessful maneuver to change the flag.

It seems a heretofore well-kept secret is finally out. Canadians have time-travel technology!

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"

-1 (1.00 / 5) (#85)
by Big Sexxy Joe on Fri Feb 18, 2005 at 07:18:15 PM EST

The story has already posted.  But I want everyone to know that if I had seen it in the queue, I would have voted it down with every account I have and then I would have made additional accounts to vote against it more.

Do you love your country?  Your country is an abstract concept.


With all the things wrong with Canada, you don't need to take on America's flaws too.

I'm like Jesus, only better.
Democracy Now! - your daily, uncensored, corporate-free grassroots news hour

I would have given +1FP.. (none / 0) (#86)
by jdtux on Fri Feb 18, 2005 at 07:54:47 PM EST

Just for mentioning RMC. I knew that all that college knowledge we had to memorize would come in useful someday...

wind-tunnel tested (none / 1) (#89)
by ParadisePete on Sun Feb 20, 2005 at 09:26:57 PM EST

It is the only flag tested under various wind velocities at a wind tunnel research laboratory.

Good thing, because after all, who *knows* how a rectangular piece of cloth on a pole would behave?

"There was all this, well, flapping," said Professor Canuck.

Pfeee (none / 0) (#93)
by ConsoleCowboy on Fri Feb 25, 2005 at 08:35:02 PM EST

The single maple leaf design had many advantages: It was neutral and it could help Quebec to stay content within the Confederation.

If only it was simply a matter of flag...

The Canadian Federation is hopeless.

The maple leaf flag | 93 comments (34 topical, 59 editorial, 0 hidden)
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