The History of the Canadian Flag Through Items in the Lac La Biche Museum’s Collection

The roots of modern Canada began on July 1, 1867, with Confederation, the joining of the Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Province of Canada into the Dominion of Canada. Other provinces would eventually join the new dominion, with Alberta joining in 1907, Newfoundland as the final addition in 1949, and the creation of Nunavut in 1993.

At the time of Confederation, Canada used the British flag, the Union Jack, to represent itself.

Small Union Jack flag on stick

The Red Ensign, technically a naval flag, was also used as an unofficial flag of Canada. The Red Ensign consists of a Union Jack and the shield of Canada on a red background. Versions of the Red Ensign were used for years, including during both World Wars.

Spread Red Ensign flag, slightly frayed

Other elements were sometimes added to the Red Ensign. For example, this flag was flown by the Hudson’s Bay Company.

Red Ensign flag with white HBC stitched in bottom right corner

By the early 20th century, Canadians began to call for a unique flag of their own. There were several efforts to come up with a Canadian flag, but it wasn’t until Lester B. Pearson’s lobbying in the 1960s that things began to move. Though his proposed solution, the Pearson Pennant, was rejected, it spurred the striking of a parliamentary committee. Many designers submitted flags; the final choice was a modified version of George Stanley’s. In a public ceremony in 1965, the Red Ensign was taken down and the maple leaf flew over Parliament Hill for the very first time.

Canadian flag