At the stroke of noon on February 15, 1965, Canada's flag was raised for the first time on Parliament Hill. On the same day in 1996, National Flag of Canada Day was declared.
The Canadian flag is an iconic symbol of Canada, its red and white stripe and red maple leaf has been used to represent our country for 58 years. The flag as we know it today emerged from the major social transformations during the 1950s and 1960s in the lead up to the 100th anniversary of Confederation in 1967.
Several different flags were used in Canada until Lester B. Pearson was elected Prime Minister in 1963 and declared to solve the issue of a new national flag of Canada. A parliamentary committee was created and given a 6-week deadline to submit a recommendation for a national flag. The committee debated the issue, divided between those who wished to retain symbols that tied Canada to its colonial history, and those who wanted to establish a symbol for the future. This period was known as the Great Flag Debate.
On February 15, 1965 thousands of Canadians gathered as the new National Flag of Canada was hoisted. Prime Minister Pearson's words on the occasion resound with hope and determination:
"May the land over which this new flag flies remain united in freedom and justice...sensitive, tolerant and compassionate towards all."
Our national flag is a symbol that unites Canadians and reflects the common values we take pride in - equality, freedom and inclusion. As our country continues to change and adapt to major modern social transformations, consider what new meanings the Canadian flag is capable of today. Learn more about the history of the Canadian flag with the resources and booklist below.
Resources to explore:
- Video: February 15, 1965: Raising Canada's New Flag. National Film Board.
- Timeline: Canada's National Flag
- Youth Corner - Activity Kit - National Flag of Canada Day
- Did you know - National Flag of Canada Day