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Proposals for Canada's Flag:
Past, Present and Future
 
Starting in the beginning of the 20th century, a number of Canadians began to propose that Canada adopt a flag to distinguish itself as a country standing on its own, and not just another British colony. Ironically, the largest push for a new Canadian flag design came from French Quebecers. Many of them found that the Union Jack on Canada's flag tied them to the past. It served as a continual reminder of the French having lost most of North America to the British, and that the Canadian head of state was an English monarch.

Since the middle of the 19th century, the maple leaf had been considered the prime symbol of Canada. As a result, a number of initial alternate flag proposals incorporated the leaf. Some designs tried to find a compromise and give a balance to both the British and French heritage of Canada.

A number of these proposals are shown below. Some have been taken from the Flags of the World Website, others from the CBC's documentary program, "A Flag for Canada".


Proposed flag design from Lt.Col. T.B. Monk's
"A National Flag for Canada: Its Symbolism and Historical Growth", December 1936.
Flag graphic from The Image of a Country website.
 


1939 Proposal by Ephrem Cote
Graphic by Kevin Wharton of FOTW


1945 Proposal (Artist Unknown)
Flag graphic from The Image of a Country website.
 

 

 
1946 Proposals by a Joint Government
Committee studying the possibility of a new flag
Graphics by Chris Young of FOTW
 


 1946 Proposal (Artist Unknown)
Flag graphic from The Image of a Country website.

 
1947 Proposal by Adélard Godbout
(Premier of Quebec)
Graphic by Jaume Ollé of FOTW


1962 Proposal by John-Guy Labarre
Graphic by Jaume Ollé of FOTW

Finally in 1964, the Liberal Party of Canada (under the leadership of Lester B. Pearson) decided to push forth one of its election promises to adopt a new distinctive flag for the country.

At first, Prime Minister Pearson favored the design shown below. The flag was charged with three maple leafs (one representing the English, the other the French, and the third all other communities making up the country). The leafs were placed in the middle of two blue bars that represented the Pacific and Alantic Oceans on the west/east coasts of the country. It had been nicknamed the "Pearson Pennant" by then opposition leader and former prime minister, John G. Diefenbaker.
 


1964 Proposal (Pearson Pennant)
Graphic by Kevin Wharton of FOTW

Pearson had been heavily critized by the opposition, who stated that all Canadians should be involved in the design of a flag and not just the Liberal Party of Canada. Diefenbaker insisted that a new flag design retain the Union Jack. Pearson wanted to break away from Canada's colonialist past and move forth with a design for a new generation of Canadians.

To resolve the impass, a committee was set up consisting of members of the Liberal, Progressive Conservative and NDP parties. Canadians from across the country were asked to submit their own proposals. A number of them obtained from the CBC website and Government of Canada's Digital Collections website are shown below:
 
 1964 Proposals
 
 After reviewing thousands of proposals, the committee settled on the three following designs:

  

The first design came from Diefenbaker's members of the committee. The second was again the original proposal, the "Pearson Pennant". The third was similar to the first, a 13-pointed red Canadian Maple Leaf on white with red stripes on both sides, but without the Union Jack and the banner of the Kingdom of France.

Like the Pearson Pennant, the third flag had two bars on both sides of the main symbol to represent the Pacific and Atlantic. The entire flag was in red and white, the official colours granted to Canada in 1921 by King George V. The red also represented those Canadian soldiers who died fighting for freedom during World War I, II and the Korean War. The single leaf represented all Canadians.

After a vote, the third proposal was elected with an overwhelming majority. A government graphic artist was asked to create a print for the final proposal. After some input from the committee leaders, the maple leaf was changed to an 11-pointed leaf. Part of the motivation to change the leaf design was based on superstition (13 being an unlucky number in Christian culture). The other was to simplify the leaf design further so that even a child could draw the flag.

The final design was adopted on October 22, 1964. It was proclaimed as Canada's official flag by Queen Elizabeth II on February 15, 1965.


         Official Flag of Canada (1965)

The flag has remained unchanged for nearly forty years. In 1992, Hank Gigandet came up with the idea of modifying it to have it recognize the French fact in Canada. After failed government attempts at ratifying the Canadian constitution with the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords, Canada's Francophone population (based predominantly in Quebec) felt a lack of recognition of its distinctness and fragility from the rest of the country.

Gigandet added inner blue stripes alongside each red stripe on the existing flag design. The size ratio of the blue to red stripe was 1 to 4, the blue representing the 25% population of French speaking Canadians. The newly created "Unity Flag" was a means of outwardly representing Canada's linguistic duality.

The flag was first flown on Parliament Hill on October 24th, 1994, a full year before the Referendum and months before one was actually called.  It was shown on the television program, "Ottawa Inside/Out" by CBC on October 30th, 1994.
 


Canadian Duality Flag
(formerly the Canadian Unity Flag)
Graphic by Hank Gigandet
 

When 1995 rolled around, the Parti Quebecois was gearing up for a second provincial referendum on independence from Canada. Hank Gigandet paraded his flag during Canada Day celebrations in Montreal the same year.

By a razor close margin, Quebec voted to stay in Canada by 52%. The calls for renewing federalism grew louder, and since that time Hank Gigandet's flag proposal has been gaining more momentum as a means of promoting nationwide unity. A number of people and organizations have obtained copies of this flag, and are now flying them across the country.

In 2003, the flag was renamed the "Canadian Duality Flag". It has the potential of becoming the next to represent Canada in the 21st century. More information on the Duality flag can be found at http://www.trcf.ca

Text by: Ben Koorengevel - 2005
 
PS: Special thanks to Mr. Gigandet for providing me with a detailed jpeg of the "Canadian Duality Flag", and providing additional information behind the history and motivation for its creation.

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