Knight's Canadian Info Collectiona
Knight's Canadian Info Collection


Canada's Flags

Canada's National Flag

Canada's National Flag

"the Red Maple Leaf Flag"

Flags that have flown over New France and Canada since the 1500s
St. George's Cross Fleur-de-lis Royal Union
St George CrossFleur-de-lisRoyal Union
1497 - 15341534 - 17591759 - 1870

Union JackRed Ensign Maple Leaf
Union JackRed EnsignMaple Leaf
1870-19651870-19651965 - Present

Spanish FlagAcadian Flag
Spanish FlagAcadian Flag

The first flag used in the development of Canada was the English flag of the fifteenth century, the Cross of St. George. It was carried by John Cabot who reached North America in the later part of the fifteenth century.

The first flag to fly over Canadian settlements was the flag of Royal France, a white flag with three fleurs-de-lis. It was raised by Jacques Cartier at his landing at Gaspe Harbour in 1534. The French lived under this flag until the fall of Quebec in 1759. English settlements flew a blue (shown above) or red merchant flag.

The Royal Union Flag, which contained two crosses - the Cross of St. George and the Cross of St. Andrew, was used by the English from about 1707 and by the French when France ceded Canada to Britain in 1763.

In 1801, the Union Jack made up of three crosses, those of St. George, St. Andrew and St. Patrick, was proclaimed for use on His Majesty's "Forts and Castles" and ships. Wider display occurred in the years that followed and it became a national symbol after 1904. On December 18, 1964 Parliament approved continued use of this flag as a symbol of membership in the Commonwealth of Nations and allegiance to the Crown.

The Red Ensign, with Canada's shield on the fly, was authorized to be flown by Canadian Merchant ships in 1892. Although authorized only for ships, many Canadians flew the Ensign and various versions as their flag on land. In 1924, it was approved as a distinguishing device on Canadian Government Buildings abroad and from 1945 until 1965 for Federal Buildings inside and outside of Canada.

The flag of Spain once flew over Canada. By virtue of the Treaty of Tordesillas, the Spanish claimed ownership of the west coast from Mexico to Vancouver Island as Spanish territory. At the same time, the Russians were making an overlapping claim for control of the Pacific coast from Alaska to San Francisco. Early Spanish explorers landed in a few places on the west coast of Canada in 1592 and again in 1774, however, they did not build any settlements.
In 1789, Spain asserted its claim to the region by establishing a small fort at Friendly Cove at the entrance to Nootka Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island. They were fearful of the Russian intentions to explore the coast south of Alaska, and worried by the increased trading activity of the British that followed Capt. James Cook's historic visit to the area in 1778.
In 1795 Spain withdrew from the Nootka Sound area to explore further south.

The Acadian standard was officially adopted as the National Flag of Acadia in 1884 in Miscouche, Prince Edward Island. It predates the flag of Canada by 80 years and is the oldest existing flag of French people in North America, predating the Acadian flag of Louisiana by 81 years, and the provincial flag of Québec by 65 years. The flag is based on the French tri-color representing the origins of the Acadians. The yellow star is symbolic of the Acadian patron saint, the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Assumption.
The Acadians were expelled by the British in 1755 for refusing to pledge allegiance to the crown. The king of Spain invited and welcomed them to Louisiana after years of having been scattered to the various British colonies in what is now the East coast of the USA. The Acadians who arrived in Louisiana integrated into the society of Spanish, French, American Indian and displaced African slaves. The term Cajun evolved as an 'anglicized' pronunciation of the word 'Acadian'.


Canada's National FlagThe Canadian Flag was brought into existence by Prime Minister Lester Pearson, approved by Parliament on December 16, 1964 and authorized by Queen Elizabeth II on February 15, 1965. The Canadian Flag (colloquially known as The Maple Leaf Flag) is a red flag of the proportions two by length and one by width, containing in its centre a white square, with a single red stylized eleven-point maple leaf centered in the white square.
The colours of white and red are the colours assigned Canada by King George V by his proclamation on November 21, 1921, which granted a Coat of Arms to Canada. They symbolize strength, purity and, historically, are traditional of England and France. Red was the colour of St. George's Cross - the colour born by French Crusaders in 1189, and the colour associated with early Kings of England. White was popular with monarchs of France, and was the colour of the field of the St. George Cross; the colour given the English Crusaders; and the colour of Banners borne by Joan of Arc and several early French Regiments. The Maple Leaf has been emblematic of Canada for over a century. There is no recorded significance to the eleven-point leaf design

Twenty-year-old Joan O'Malley sewed Canada's first flag in 1964. At the stroke of noon on February 15, 1965, Canada's red and white Maple Leaf Flag was raised on Parliament Hill in Ottawa for the very first time. Canada is the only country in the world with a maple leaf on its flag.

Although it is NOT a National Holiday, February 15th has been declared National Flag Day in Canada.

SOURCE: Canadian Ministry of Heritage

To my Flag and to the country it represents, I pledge RESPECT and LOYALTY.
Wave with PRIDE from sea to sea and within your folds, keep us ever UNITED.
Be for all a symbol of LOVE, FREEDOM and JUSTICE.
God keep our FLAG.
God protect our CANADA.

À mon drapeau et au pays qu'il représente, je promets RESPECT et FIDÉLITÉ.
D'une mer à l'autre, flotte avec FIERTÉ et dans tes plis garde nous toujours UNIS.
Sois, pour nous tous, un symbole de l'AMOUR, de la LIBERTÉ et de la JUSTICE.
Dieu garde notre DRAPEAU.
Dieu protège notre CANADA.
{The text for this unofficial pledge, both English and French versions, was proposed by Mr. Alexandre Cyr when he was a Member of Parliament for Gaspé, Quebec}


At public events and official functions in Canada, the place of honour is always given to the National Flag of Canada, which is usually displayed at the extreme left (as seen by the spectators) when flown with any of the 10 Provincial and 3 Territory flags.. It is then followed by the flag of the host Province, then the flags of the other Provinces according to the date the Province entered Confederation.
The order is: Ontario (1867), Quebec (1867), Nova Scotia (1867), New Brunswick (1867), Manitoba (1870), British Columbia (1871), Prince Edward Island (1873), Saskatchewan (1905), Alberta (1905), and Newfoundland (1949).
It is customary to fly the flags of the Territories in alphabetical order - Northwest Territories, followed by Nunavut and the Yukon. It is also correct to repeat Canada's flag at the other end.

When only three flags are displayed, the National Flag should be at the centre. To an observer facing the display, the second-ranking flag (in order of precedence) is placed to the left of centre, and the other to the right.

A common combination of flags is that of the National Flag of Canada with a provincial or territorial flag, and a municipal flag or an organization's banner. In such a case, the National Flag should be in the center with the provincial/territorial flag to the left and the municipal flag/organization's banner to the right (to an observer facing the display).

When possible, flags are raised daily at sunrise and lowered at sunset.
They are be flown at half-mast on the death of the following persons:
The Governor General(throughout the nation)
The Lieutenant-Governor (throughout the province)
Provincial Cabinet Ministers (throughout the province)
Members of Parliament (in their constituency only)
Members of the Senate (in place of residence only)
Members of the Legislative Assembly (in their constituency)
Mayor of city or town(in places of residence only)
NOTE: When flown at half-mast, the flag is raised to the top of the mast, then lowered to the half-mast position; and at night, raised once more to the top of the mast, then lowered to the ground.


The flag is always removed at night, folded and stored in a safe, dry location.
In Canada (and the UK) there is no formal way of folding the flag. You simply fold it ready for use next time. Basically, it is folded lengthwise (so you have a flag four times as long as it is high), then fold again lengthwise (ie 8 x 1), and then fold it three quarters of the way from the hoist back on itself and tie with light cotton. When the flag is next hoisted on the pole, a sharp tug on the lower rope will break the cotton and the flag will fly free.

International flag protocol is respected at all times.


Canada’s national flag has been featured on many Canada Post Stamps. For the past several years, our flag stamps have featured a fluttering or flapping flag set against various landscapes or familiar objects from diverse areas of the nation. Previous issues featured an iceberg, a lake, mountains and a shoreline, an office building, forests and prairies, and a seacoast. For the stamp design shown here, the flag flies in front of an inukshuk. An inukshuk is a figure of a human made of stones, originally used to scare caribou into an ambush. Today it’s used as a marker beside trails to guide travellers.

Visit our Canada Flags on Stamps page to see all stamp issues since 1965.

Flags of the 10 Provinces
and 3 Territories

British Columbia
New Brunswick
Nova Scotia
Prince Edward
& Labrador


Franco-Canadien (French Canadian) Flags

(British Columbia)
(Newfoundland & Labrador)

(Northwest Territories)
(Yukon Territories)

Provincial Lieutenant-Governor's flags

10 Provincial Lt.-Gov flags

The flag of the Lieutenant-Governor of a Canadian Province (within the home Province of his/her jurisdiction) is treated in a manner similar to the Governor-General's flag and takes precedence over all flags, except H.M. the Queen's Personal Canadian flag.

Governor-General's flag

Governor-General's Flag

The Governor General's flag has precedence over all flags in Canada except The Queen's Personal Canadian flag and the flag of the Lieutenant-Governor of a Province at the Lieutenant Governor's residence; or on occasion when the Lieutenant-Governor is performing his/her duties as The Queen's representative in his/her home Province.

Queen's Personal Canadian Flag

H.M Queen Elizabeth's Personal Flag

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (and other members of the Royal Family) are entitled to display personal flags and standards which are flown to denote their presence. These flags and standards are flown day and night at any building in which they are in residence or in which they are attending public functions.
These Royal flags and standards are also flown behind a saluting base when troops are inspected and on Her Majesty's ships when they are on board.
They are broken from the flag pole as members of the Royal Family step on to the saluting base or enter the building and are immediately lowered as they leave.
Her Majesty's Personal Canadian flag (and standards of other members of the Royal Family) take precedence before a national flag. They are never half-masted and these flags and standards, like all personal flags, are never used by others.

Flag of the Canadian Forces

Canadian Forces Flag

Canadian Forces Ensign: The Canadian Forces flag consists of the White Ensign with the National flag in the canton and the badge of the Canadian Armed Forces in the fly. This flag is also used as the personal flag of the Chief of Defence Staff.

Canadian Naval JackCanadian Naval Ensign
Canadian Army FlagCanadian Army Flag
Canadian Airforce EnsignCanadian Air Force Ensign
Canadian Coast Guard JackCanadian Coast Guard Ensign
R.C.M.P FlagRoyal Canadian Mounted Police Flag
Royal Military CollegeRoyal Military College Flag (*)

(*) The design of the Royal Military College flag proved to be instrumental in the final selection of the Canadian flag in 1965.

This page is part of Knight's Canadian Info Collection
Please visit our other pages

Site © by K.C.I.C. - A. Knight (Webmaster)