On this day 52 years ago the country unified behind one flag, a flag that is recognized internationally as the symbol of our country. That is why every year since 1996, Canadians celebrate National Flag of Canada Day on February 15.
However, the road to the nation’s Maple Leaf flag was a turbulent one and was proceeded by decades of divide along British and French colonial roots, termed by historians as “The Great Flag Debate.”
The Maple Leaf flag was aimed at unifying all Canadians under a common banner and not one that just represented its British ties.
It was in March 1964 when Col. John R. Matheson, then a Member of Parliament for Leeds, was visiting the campus of the Royal Military College of Canada (RMCC) that concept of Canada’s future flag began to take shape.
The college’s dean of arts, Col. George Stanley, suggested to Matheson that the RMCC flag should form the basis of the national flag. The RMCC flag featured one-third red on each side of the flag with the centre two-thirds being white, where a mailed fist holding a sprig of three green maple leaves is featured.
Stanley proposed the new flag should be red and white and feature a single red maple leaf in the centre, rather than the college emblem.
Matheson, alumni of the RMC, was also a Second World War veteran.
It is reported by the Toronto Star that the flag was then carefully crafted after a considerable debate between parliamentarians and careful analysis of different types of maple leafs and which image was more appropriate for a maple leaf flapping in the wind.
Despite its origins, the flag is now a symbol of pride for Canadians to showcase around the world.
On National Flag of Canada Day, the country’s citizens are encouraged to participate in the “Share your Moment with the Flag Challenge” through social media and using the #canadianflag.
This year’s National Flag of Canada Day is also especially significant due to Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation.
“This year, as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation, let us reflect on the achievements the maple leaf flag represents: the hard work that has built this country, the sacrifices made by so many to keep it free, and the hard-won victories to ensure that compassion and diversity remain the cornerstones of our democracy.
“Few national symbols are as iconic as the maple leaf. Beavers and canoes may be just as enduring, but only the maple leaf has come to represent unity, hope, generosity, openness, and respect – and the nation and its people who live up to those values every day. It is fitting that this cherished symbol is at the heart of Canada’s flag.
“Today, I invite all Canadians to reflect on what the maple leaf flag means to them, what it stands for around the world, and how it has helped shape our national identity. I also invite you to take part in Canadian Heritage’s Share your moment with the flag challenge and celebrate one of our greatest national symbols,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a statement.