The Canadian Flag celebrates its 55th anniversary on Feb. 15, 2020. (Black Press Media files)

Canada’s flag was flown for first time 55 years ago today

The flag is used to celebrate wins in sports, honour Canada Day, and flown at half-mast after tragedy

Fifty-five years ago today, the Canadian flag was raised for the very first time on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. One year later, the federal government declared Feb. 15 as the National Flag of Canada Day.

“Over the decades, the maple leaf has been a symbol in Canadian art, medals, badges, and coats of arms,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement Saturday.

“It has travelled to the highest peaks on Mount Everest, into space with the first Canadian astronaut, and around the world on the arms of Canadian Armed Forces members. This summer, Canadian athletes will wear it with pride at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

To commemorate the day, here’s some quick facts you might not know about the national emblem:

Flag design was a decades-long debate

The current red and white maple leaf flag was selected by an all-party committee in what historians call the Great Flag Debate, after then-Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson called for the creation of a new flag in 1964.

Talks of the country needing a new flag had gone on for decades prior, each time dissolving before a design could be chosen. In 1925, former Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King set up a committee in attempt to create a design. Another committee was appointed in 1945, and suggested a flag highlighting a red ensign with a gold maple leaf, but was struck down by legislators in Quebec.

Flag design chosen from thousands of submissions

In 1964, Pearson’s committee put a callout for design submissions from the public, receiving thousands of proposals. According to historians, 2,000 of the submissions contained a variation of the maple leaf.

On Oct. 29, 1964, it was George Stanley’s proposal that was selected by the committee, which inspired the current flag’s design. At 2:15 a.m. on Dec. 15, 1964, the maple leaf design was passed with 186 votes for and 78 votes against.

There are dos and don’ts when displaying the flag

Today, many find ways to display the Canadian flag inside or outside their home – especially on Canada Day. But there’s actually a number of rules when it comes to using the flag, according to the federal government, including:

  • The dimensions or proportions of the flag have an exact ratio of 2 to 1 (twice as long as it is wide), and must not be modified.
  • The flag should not be written on or marked in any way, nor be covered by other objects.
  • Nothing should be pinned or sewn onto the flag.
  • The flag should never be dipped or lowered to the ground as a means of paying a salute or compliment to any person or thing.
  • When the flag is raised or lowered, or when it is carried past in a parade or review, people should face the flag, men should remove their hats, and all should remain silent.
  • Fading or torn flags should be replaced with a new one and destroyed in a dignified way.
  • The flag should always fly alone on its own flagpole or mast and can be flown at night without being lit up.
  • The only flags that take precedent over the Canadian flag are: the Queen’s Personal Canadian flag, the Governor General’s flag, the flags of the Lieutenant Governors (within their province) and the Personal Canadian flags of the other members of the Royal Family.

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