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The Canadian Flag and Other National Symbols 

The Canadian Flag National Symbols
The Canadian National Anthem The Canadian Citizenship Oath

 The Canadian Flag

*click here to see the provincial flags*

There have been several variations of the Red Ensign - the flag Canada used until 1965 when the maple-leaf flag was adopted. Here are two versions: the one on the left dates back to 1868 and the one on the right was the last Red Ensign used.**

On February 15, 1965 Canada adopted the red and white flag with one maple leaf as it's official flag. All federal government buildings fly the Canadian flag.

The maple leaf has been associated with Canada since the 1700s. Maple leaf trees can be found in Europe, Asia and North America. The deciduous trees are prominent in Canada as well as the maple syrup and sugar exports that they were used for.

It was decided in the mid 1960s by the Pearson Liberal Government that Canada should have a flag of its  own. (For a while, the flag was known as 'Pearson's Pennant'.) From the outset of his administration Pearson had his heart set on approval by Parliament of a Canadian Flag. Up to that point Canada had used the Union Jack, and later, the Red Ensign (the flag of the British merchant marines) with a Canadian badge. Therefore, part of the reason for the move was to accommodate a changing Quebec which resented the symbol of English oppression on the national flag. 

This move however was seen as highly controversial and strongly opposed by former PM Deifenbaker and the Conservative opposition at the time. They felt that Canada should stay loyal to Britain and Canada should stay true to its roots by maintaining the the Union Jack on the flag. (At this time, Canada was not yet a full country.) They led the House of Commons in singing God Save the Queen (for one of the last times ever in the House of Commons) in opposition to the move.

The House of Commons formed a committee to consider a design for the flag in the mid-60s. The first committee had actually been established by Prime Minister Mackenzie King in 1925 but never reported. 

The committee with the thousands of different designs submitted for the Canadian Flag. Photo was likely taken in 1964. Photo by Cliff Buckman, courtesy the Queen's University Archives. 

There was much disagreement over the design for the flag. Canadians from all over the country were invited to submit their designs which the committee had to decide from.

Pearson favored a design with blue bars on the side with a red maple leaf. Robert McMichael (of the McMichael Collection fame)  and A.Y. Jackson (of Group of Seven fame) also submitted a design involving a maple leaf red white and blue. Blue was to symbolize the vast amount of water that surrounds and is in Canada.  However these were rejected by the committee because blue is not an official Canadian colour (which are red and white). A major influence in the choosing of the design was MP John Matheson who was not only a vigorous and effective advocate of a distinctive Canadian Flag but by diligent study made himself an authority on the principles of heraldry and did much to ensure that the design that was finally accepted reflected Canada's history and traditions.

On February 15th 1965 the red Ensign was lowered for the last time over Canada and the Canadian flag as we now know it was flown over Parliament hill. It flies there everyday unless the Queen is in the Country in which case the Queen's flag is flown or when the Governor General is on Parliament Hill and another specific flag is flown.

Despite the controversy, it was clear that by 1967, that Canadians had adopted the flag during the Centenial celebrations of that year as well as during the World Exposition in Montreal. 

Fast forward to 1998 - It was decided by Heritage Canada that Canadians should be able to see the first official flag in a museum. A ceremony was arranged where the flag was shown to the public. However, in July, 2000, it was pointed out by an archive-conservationist authority that the flag in the ceremony could not be the first official one. A marking on the flag showed that. Read about that here.

 

Oops - wrong flag.***

Enter me. I was visiting the Queen's University archives while researching an article for the Queen's Alumni Review. I came across a friend of mine, Jon Tinney - an intern for the Kingston Whig Standard and Co-Editor in Chief for the Queen's Journal. Jon had just gotten back from interviewing the aforementioned John Matheson who is now a retired judge. Matheson had pointed out that the first print of a Canadian flag was in the Queen's archives. 

The first print of a modern Canadian flag and a rejected design for the flag. Both of these were found in the Queen's University Archives in Kingston Ontario. a big thanks to the archivists who let me take the pictures and virtually tear the viewing room apart while doing it! 

Lo and behold - there it was in all of it's cheese cloth glory - along with other designs for the Canadian flag (including the one with the blue bars and the 3 maple leafs.) It wasn't the first Canadian flag - just the first copy. I thought it was pretty neat and went a little crazy with the digital camera. Hence all the new pictures on this page. 

I have some really great shots with good resolution of the first print of the Canadian flag as well as well as a picture of a picture of the flag committee. However, they are too big to post with good resolution. If you would be interested in these for a project, I can e-mail them to you. 


The Canadian National Anthem: O Canada

O Canada! Our home and native land
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see the rise,
The true north strong and free!
From far and wide, O Canada!
We stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee!
 
La Version Français - O'Canada was originally composed in French

O Canada! Terre de nos aïeux,
Ton front est ceint de fleurons glorieux!
Car ton bras sait porter l'épée,
Il sait porter la croix!
Ton histoire est un épopée
Des plus brilliants exploits.
Et ta valeur, de foi trempée,
Protégera nos foyers et nos droits.
Protégera nos foyers et nos droits.

The Canadian national anthem was composed in 1880 by Calixa Lavalee. However "God Save The Queen" (and "Maple Leaf Forever," unofficially) was used in Canada until the late 1970's when "O Canada" took its place.


National Symbols

Please note: The Treasury Board has informed me that displaying the symbols of Canada without permission is actually a violation of their copyright. You can see them on their website here. (Just don't use them without permission!)

This is the Canadian maple leaf which (as you can see from above) is on the flag of Canada

This is the official Coast of Arms for Canada. On it (on the blue ribbon) is the official motto of Canada: A Mari Usque Ad Mari which means From Sea to Sea. Also on it are the old flags of Britain and France which recognize our founding countries.


The Beaver is the national animal of Canada. It can be found on the nickel (a coin). It is the national animal of Canada because the beaver is one of the main reasons Canada was explored and colonized. Trappers - or Les Couriers De Bois came to Canada for Beaver pelts which were very necessary for the fashions of the time. It represents industry and perseverence.

 


The Canadian Citizenship Oath*

"I [name of person] swear" [or "affirm"] "that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, according to law and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen".

Le version français:
in French: "Je jure" [ou "déclare solennellement"] "que je serai fidèle et que je porterai sincère allégeance à Sa Majesté la Reine Elizabeth Deux, Reine du Canada, à ses héritiers et à ses successeurs en conformité de la loi et que j'observerai fidèlement les lois du Canada et remplirai mes devoirs de citoyen canadien".

The oath has three parts to it: First, the individuals who take it commit themselves to fidelity to the head of our country, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II -- the person in whom, in accordance with the Constitution, the Government of Canada and the Command in Chief of the Canadian Forces are vested; who is one of the three parts of the Parliament of Canada; and in whose name the law is administered. Individuals are not swearing loyalty to the government policies of the day.) Secondly, they are promising to observe the laws of the country, (but not necessarily to support or advance them if their conscience tells them otherwise). Finally, they state that they will be good citizens of Canada.

It was introduced by the Trudeau government in 1976 and came into effect in 1977.

*This information is from the Monarchist League of Canada. They really like the Queen.

** Pictures of the Red Ensign are courtesy Flags of the World: http://fotw.digibel.be/flags/ca_.html#hist

***Picture of PM Chretien and Heritage Minister Sheila Copps from the Toronto Star web page: www.thestar.com

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