On Monday, February 15, 1965, I was seven (scheduled to turn eight at the end of the month). The school day started out much like any other. But just before morning recess the entire school trekked out to the flag pole for the raising of Canada’s new flag. It was mild for a Winnipeg winter morning – most of us grabbed coats but didn’t bother with boots or mitts. While the flag was raised, for the second time that morning, I sang “O Canada.”
Because of heated discussions around the dinner table for about a year prior to this historic event (we were staunch monarchists as decreed by my father), I knew that the country was of mixed opinion about retiring the Royal Union Jack and the Canadian Red Ensign as Canada’s official flags. Lester B. Pearson, (PM from 1963-1968) felt that a new flag was important to Canada’s future; that it signalled her determination in becoming a unified nation and a country with its own unique identity.
This is what I didn’t know until I did a little research for National Flag Day celebrated earlier this week:
- there were over 5,900 design submissions
- there was a very heated debate about whether or not Canada should have a new flag at all
- there were fierce discussions about what it should look like
- the 5,900 submissions were narrowed down to four final choices
- George Stanley (dean of arts for Canada’s Royal Military College) and John Matheson (Liberal MP) collaborated on the design that was eventually chosen as Canada’s national flag
- it was designed specifically to be unique – in addition to the maple leaf, no other country’s flag is twice as long as it is wide
One of the four final choices, pictured above, is my personal favourite. Designed by Alan Beddoe, who had submitted a number of designs including this one, the bands of blue symbolized from sea to sea. It was Lester B. Pearson’s fave too, so much so the flag was nicknamed the “Pearson Pennant design.”
Out and about earlier today, I passed by a hotel flying the flags of several countries including Canada. Knowing a little bit more of its history, I just had to stop and look. It is indeed a very beautiful flag.