Although iconic today, the creation of a Canadian flag was a contentious issue that wasn’t resolved until 1965.


Though not official, the maple leaf has been a symbol of Canada for over 200 years. It was initially adopted by the French-Canadians in the 1700s but its popularity grew such that by the early 1900s, it was featured on all Canadian coinage. In 1921 it was included in the newly made Canadian coat of arms (although they weren’t changed from green to red until 1957).

Red and white are the national colors of Canada. They derive from the red that is traditionally associated with England, and the white which is associated with France. The red of England is still seen today in the cross of St. George and the white of France is visible in the flag of Quebec.


Leading up to the adoption of their current flag, there was a national debate as to what a redesigned Canadian flag should look like. The vast majority of Canadians wanted a flag different to the flag of any other nation (no Union Jack) and many wanted it to feature a maple leaf.

The issue became contentious because many veterans wanted to keep the Union Jack to honor their ties to Great Britain and the other Commonwealth countries. French Canadians wanted nothing to do with any flag that had the Union Jack on it. Likewise, English Canadians didn’t want the fleur-de-lis on the flag.

When the government officially began discussing the issue in 1964, they also began accepting suggestions from the public. Over 3,500 public entries were received, over 2,000 of which featured maple leaves. The winning design was submitted by George Stanley, a historian inspired by the flag of the Royal Military College of Canada.

The flag was made official on January 28, 1965 by royal proclamation of Queen Elizabeth II.

Historic flags of Canada



Gules on a Canadian pale argent a maple leaf of the first




Red #ff0000

White #ffffff