Celebrating 50 years of Canada’s national flag!

Canada’s national flag celebrates its 50th anniversary! Approved by Parliament on December 15, 1964, the flag was proclaimed by Queen Elizabeth II to take effect on February 15, 1965.

Colour reproduction of the proclamation of the Canadian flag. It describes the proportions of the flag and states the dates when the flag will come into effect.

The Proclamation of the Canadian Flag (MIKAN 2909612)

The issue of selecting a representative and unique Canadian flag went through waves of debate following the First and Second World Wars, and in 1964 it became a hotly contested government priority for Lester B. Pearson’s Liberal minority government. Announced in May 1964, Pearson’s push to select a Canadian flag by December 1964 was criticized by the Progressive Conservative opposition, headed by John G. Diefenbaker, who wanted to take such a decision to a public plebiscite.

In September 1964, Tommy Douglas, leader of the New Democratic Party, suggested an all-party committee to select this nationally significant symbol through parliamentary consensus. The idea was endorsed by the government and the fifteen-member National Flag Committee was created, chaired by Member of Parliament John Matheson. After reviewing thousands of submissions, the solitary red maple leaf on a white square between two red borders was selected by the Committee as the unifying symbol for Canada. This submission was made by historian George F. Stanley who described the idea as simple, devoid of British and French national symbols, and easily recognizable as being Canadian.

The selection of the red maple leaf was then debated and voted on by Canada’s 26th Parliament. The passion surrounding the debate did not dissipate. By the time the final vote occurred in the House of Commons, the debate had lasted into the early hours of December 15th and it was two o’clock in the morning!

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has digitized several of the public’s submissions to the National Flag Committee. Some of these proposals can be found on LAC’s Flickr website.

Do you want to know more about this moment in Canadian history? Check out the links below to investigate other parts of LAC’s flag holdings:

Here are some other links from the Internet relating to Canada’s flag debate:

3 thoughts on “Celebrating 50 years of Canada’s national flag!

  1. Although most of the information here is correct, there are several inaccurate pieces. John Ross Matheson did not chair the Flag committee, he was a member of the committee and was the person most responsible for bringing our Canadian Maple Leaf Flag to fruition. The second piece is Dr. George Stanley made a suggestion to John Ross Matheson which is a recycled concept from a memo written on February 8th 1919 by Major-General (later Sir) Eugene Fiset who suggested the emblem of Canada be ” a single red maple leaf on a white field with red bordures (armorial bearing) The actual design team was made up of George Bist (proportions) Jacques St. Cyr (creator of the stylized maple leaf as we see it today)) Dr. Gunter Wyszecki (NRC team who developed the Scientific Standard colour of red. John Ross Matheson, Patrick Reid and Jacques St. Cyr overseen the final creation and design on November 9th 1964.

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