Legacy of the Canadian Flag
The red maple leaf is an iconic image that is associated with Canadians worldwide. Many travellers, have worn a maple leaf pin or put it on luggage as a way to declare their nationality. It's seen as a symbol of peace, tranquility, and neutrality. Yet, how the maple leaf came to be used in the design of the Canadian flag is steeped in controversy, chaos and debate.
The search for a national flag design, to better represent the newly independent Dominion of Canada, began in the late 1800's. Despite thousands of submissions for a design, the search process repeatedly stalled when it became a politically divisive issue. No agreement could be reached for many decades.
It was not until 1964, as the centennial of Canadian self-rule approached, that the search for a national flag design geared up with renewed intensity. Then Prime Minister, Lester B. Pearson, appointed a multi-party parliamentary committee to oversee the choice of the design for the flag. John Matheson, a Member of Parliament and World War 2 veteran, was chosen to lead the committee.
Once again, the process was quickly besieged with problems, national debates ensued, and the issue stirred up emotional arguments between differing political camps. Many people were involved in sifting through the various ideas that were suggested, each with their own rationale for choosing one design over another. Eventually, however, the committee managed to narrow it down to three possible designs.
George Stanley is often credited as the sole designer of the Canadian flag. While Stanley did play a part, in suggesting the design that was ultimately chosen, it was really Matheson’s skilled leadership - in successfully navigating through the turmoil and bi-partisan arguments - that was crucial to the development of the flag as we see it today.
Finally, the National Flag of Canada was inaugurated on February 15, 1965, a day now recognized as ‘National Flag of Canada Day’. The legacy of the Canadian flag is best summed up by Maurice Bourget, then Speaker of the Senate, on the day of its inauguration:
"The flag is the symbol of the nation's unity, for it, beyond any doubt, represents all the citizens of Canada without distinction of race, language, belief or opinion."