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Canada, flag proposals

Last modified: 2006-07-01 by phil nelson
Keywords: canada | proposal: canada | maple leaf | pearson pennant | league of the canadian flag | maple leaf: green | leaf: green maple | st. george cross | star: 10 |
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A 1939 Proposal

[Ephrem Cote proposal of 1939]
by Kevin Wharton

This is a copy of the flag proposal put forth in 1939 by Ephrem Cote. He wrote a book promoting his flag, called Project of a Distinct National Flag for Canada.

It seems like most of the submissions were based on the red ensign, but this is different.
Kevin Wharton, 20 December 2002

Proposals of 1946

I have been reading through "Canada's Flag - A Search for Country" online. It is proving to be absolutely fascinating.

On page 4m ( ) I discovered some proposals which are not shown on FOTW.

Here is the text that applies. I have added the file names of the images after each relevant description.

Beaudoin still pleaded for some measure of compromise. He was prepared to accept the Union Jack in the first quarter provided that part or all of the background was white. It was, incidentally, a design which had been suggested by the newspaper La Presse in the I930s.38 The white background on the flag would symbolize the history of the first period of Canada, the heroic period wherein citizens of French origin played such a great role.

[Beaudoin Canadian proposal of 1946]
by Chris Young

Interestingly enough, Beaudoin's suggestion won support from J. M. Macdonnell, a prestigious Toronto Conservative, and from Senator Reid, a Liberal and Scottishborn Presbyterian from British Columbia. Even G. G. Hansell stated that he had no objection to a little white and in fact wished to see some white, somewhere, perhaps a white maple leaf!

[Hansell/Reid Canadian Proposal of 1946]
by Chris Young

For a short while it seemed as though some compromise might be achieved, possibly in the form of a variation of the naval white ensign.

The protagonists appeared to be withdrawing from their hard positions.

It fell to John R. MacNicol, member for Davenport Toronto and past president of riding, city ward, provincial and dominion Conservative associations, to bring the dreamers to heel. He would have nothing less than the Red Ensign and said so in terms that left no further hope for compromise. His only concession would be a maple leaf on a white background instead of the Coat of Arms.

[MacNicol proposal of 1946]
by Chris Young

The joint committee met on the evening of Thursday, 11 July, under the chairmanship of Walter Harris to prepare the final report. R. W. Gladstone, member for Wellington South moved:

That this committee recommend that the national flag in Canada should be the Canadian Red Ensign with a maple leaf in autumn golden colours in a bordered background of white replacing the Coat of Arms in the fly, the whole design to be so proportioned that the size and position of the maple leaf in relation to the Union Jack in the canton will identify it as a symbol distinctive of Canada as a nation.

[Red Ensign proposal of 1946]
by Chris Young

These descriptions are pretty vague, so I had to do a little creative interpretation. Comments are, of course, welcome.
Chris Young - 14 March 1999

We actually have a yellowing old poster on the wall here in the High Commission (ie., intra-Commonwealth Embassy) showing this flag. The maple leaf is a natural ("proper"?) sugar maple leaf, with somewhat sweeping (curved?) edges, vice the straight, geometrically-balanced "stylised" maple leaf of the current (post-1964) flag. The current stylised maple leaf was a creation of the 1964 flag debate; hence the maple leaf on any pre-1965 Canadian flag/arms should be natural.
Glen Robert-Grant Hodgins

In Chris's initial posting on the subject he referred to gold. This is the "natural" colour finally proposed in 1946, (and the one in the poster I referred to). As I'm sure we have discussed before, prior to c. the mid-1950s the preferred option was for a green maple leaf; then, slowly, the preference changed to a red one. This transformation was reflected most obviously in the colours of the sprig of 3 leaves portrayed in the bottom compartment of the shield in the Canadian coat of arms; but not exclusively -- Her Majesty's Canadian Ships adopted a green maple leaf (as a distinguishing mark), c.1943, and affixed it to their funnels. These were slowly repainted to red in the late-1940s/early-1950s, and after 1965 all new ones were the stylised maple leaf.
Glen Robert-Grant Hodgins - 15 March 1999

Proposal of 1947

[Canada - Proposal of 1947]
by Jaume Ollé

This flag was suggested by Adélard Godbout (Premier of Quebec in 1936 and from 1939 to 1944) in 1947 for Canada. It was the flag of the League of the Canadian Flag : diagonally divided from upper hoist to lower fly, red over white, with a centered green maple leaf.

Some might be interested to know that in the text of the law on the adoption of the present fleur-de-lis, flag of Quebec, it is said :

WHEREAS the Federal authorities seem to be opposed to the adoption of an exclusively Canadian flag and consequently fail to provide Our Country, Canada, with a flag to which it is entitled;

Ironic twist of faith... The most important national symbol of Quebec wouldn't have been adopted at that time if the Federal would've been more nationalist! (In the Canadian sense, of course).
Luc-Vartan Baronian - 23 March 1997

Proposal of 1962

[Canada - Proposal of 1962]
by Jaume Ollé

Proposal (from the beginning of the century) for a *Canadian* flag by John-Guy Labarre in 1962 : it has the polar star.

This is the second Quebecois proposal for a Canadian flag that I mention.
Luc-Vartan Baronian - 19 March 1997

Star proposal

[Canada - starry flag proposal]
image by Rob Raeside, 26 May 2006

I have an unusual flag which looks like it's a combination of three flags, British, Canadian and US.

The background is like the British flag without the diagonal stripes, there is a green maple leaf in the center and there are three stars on either side in the red stripe and two stars on either side in the vetical red stripe.
Chantale Ladouceur, 26 May 2006

It took some searching, but a flag matching the description can be found on p.74 of Archbold's I Stand For Canada [abd02], in the photo of the Flag Committee (along with hundreds of other designs). At the top left, the bottom of the flag can be seen just behind the Pearson Pennant, and directly above the head of John Matheson, Prime Minister Pearson's right-hand man on the flag issue. The colours and design seem to match, the centre is not visible. The stars on the lower arm of the cross (the only stars visible) are "points-down", and the width of the cross and fimbriation are rather wide.

(There is a second edition of this book which may have different page numbering or include different photos).
Dean McGee, 27 May 2006

Proposal of 1964: The Pearson Pennant

[Canada - Pearson Pennant]
by Kevin Wharton

Apparantly there is a flag that looks like the Canadian flag, but with blue stripes. ... What was that flag?

There have been a number of replies to this inquiry that more or less answered the question. The white flag with the triple red maple leaves on a single stem, and blue bands at either end of the field, is called the "Pearson Pennant" and was designed by that Canadian Prime Minister subsequent to the Anglo-Egyptian difficulties over the Suez Canal in the late 1950's. Seems the Canadians were offered as "peace - keepers" but the Egyptians objected, saying (in reference to the Canadian Red Ensign) "Look at the Union Jack in their flag and you'll see that Canadians cannot be objective." That really kicked the Canadian flag issue into the forefront of public debate, culminating in 1965.
Nick Artimovich - 1996-09-27

Not being Canadian I will not try to get into the symbolism of either the Pearson Pennant, nor the Maple Leaf Flag adopted in 1965, but I agree with Dave Kendall that the flag that was adopted is far superior to Pearson's design. I will offer my opinion that the Maple Leaf Flag is the most attractive national flag in the world, considering both from a graphic design standpoint and from a historic perspective: it is simple (two colors, very few graphic elements), distinctive (so much so that the use of a square in the middle of a 2:1 flag is termed a "Canadian Pale"), and easy to recognize/recall (once you know that Canada's colors are red and white, and that the maple leaf has been part of the national iconography for the better part of two centuries.)
Nick Artimovich - 27 September 1996

Nick Artmovitch provided more information than I had regarding the history of the "Pearson Pennant", but I stand by my opinion about its superiority to the current flag. Its blue stripes at hoist and fly are unmatched as a fit of words ["A mari usque ad mare"] to pictorial representation, and this inclusion of blue incorporates an important color of French flags into a Canadian one.
Carl S. Gurtman - 01 October 1996

I have been working through the contributions to you web page on the flag and been struck by how much is forgotten so quickly. I thought I might refer people to a book by somebody who really knows.

John Matheson was probably the most important figure in the design of the flag. In the drive for a flag he gives full credit to Prime Minister Pearson; indeed, at times his remarks about Pearson border on hagiography. However I think the book is close to being exhaustive on the subject. There you will find the answers to colours, including shade of red, three vs. one leaf, size and shape, and the incredible work just to secure a dye that wouldn't fade in 30 days.

What I found most lacking in the book was any discussion of an ensign for the armed forces [they were unified by then]. Nor is any consideration given to a separate flag for the merchant marine. I feel we missed a real opportunity then. Upon re-reading the book recently I thought to write Mr. Matheson and ask him about this, but he would be 82 years old now and I am not at all sure he is still alive.

Any way, I have extracted some bits from the book and include them here : Matheson
Patrick Brabazon - 12 July 1999

Facts from Radio Canada

A clip from April 1964 give some numbers in connection with the debate:

Total number of entries sent in: 3541 number of entries that contained the following elements:

  • maple leaves: 2136
  • union jacks: 408
  • beavers: 389
  • Fleur-de-lys: 359
  • canadian COA: 127
  • Provincial COA: 122
Marc Pasquin, 16 February 2005