With Canada’s 150th birthday upon us this year, there has never been a better time to learn more about our country and celebrate its history. In the 150 years since Confederation, Canada has grown as a country into what it is today: a place where people from all around the globe come together to enjoy freedoms and opportunities that wouldn’t be easy to come by in some other parts of the world. As a symbol of Canada, the Canadian flag is often the first image that comes to mind when we think of Canada; but do you know the history behind our flag? You may be surprised to know that although Canada as a nation is only 150 years old, there has been a flag flying in Canada since the late fifteenth century! Here’s a brief history of the Canadian flag, pre and post-confederation.
The Earliest Flags
Cross of St. George (1577)
The earliest known flags that were flown in Canada were a mix of British and French flags carried by the various explorers that landed in Canada from the end of the fifteenth century through to the mid-sixteenth century. These included the Cross of St. George, which was first flown by British explorer John Cabot when he reached the east coast of Canada in 1497, and the fleur-de-lis, which was a symbol of French sovereignty that was hoisted by Jacques Cartier, a French explorer that landed in Canada and claimed the ground beneath his feet for France.
Under British Rule
Royal Union Flag (1707-1801)
In the early 1760s, Canada was acquired by the British, who decided to introduce the Royal Union Flag, also known as the Union Jack. The Red Ensign was also in use and was a red flag with the Union Jack in the corner. Variations of the Red Ensign, as well as an updated version of the Union Jack that represented the United Kingdom in its entirety, were used before and after confederation. It was not until the year 1964 that the Canadian government decided it was time to give Canada a unique flag to call its own.
Red Ensign (1707)
Royal Union Flag (1801-1965)
Red Ensign (1871-1921)
Canadian Red Ensign (1921-1957)
Canadian Red Ensign (1957-1965)
A New Flag
In 1964, Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson requested for proposals for a new flag to be drawn up. Three proposals were hastily created and presented to the Prime Minister and included a Red Ensign with both the Union Jack and the fleur-de-lis in two of its corners, a design featuring three red maple leafs between blue borders, and a third design that included a single red maple leaf between red borders. You can guess which design was chosen to be Canada’s new national flag. The single maple leaf red and white design became a symbol of Canadian identity, and its design is steeped in history. The combination of red and white was first used in the General Service Medal issued by Queen Victoria, and red and white were declared Canada’s national colors in 1921 by King George V.
Today, our flag serves as the face of Canada on the international stage. It’s a symbol we can all be proud of and it represents everything that makes our country such a great place to live. Aurora Flags and Banners can help you celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday properly with our large selection of Canadian flags! So pick up a Canadian flag this Canada Day and hold it up high, happy 150th birthday Canada!
Did you know you can actually order historical flag posters free of charge from the Government of Canada?https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/services/flags-canada-historical/posters.html
Learn more about the history of our flags here: