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National Symbols

        

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Coat of Arms

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National Flag

 

National Flower

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The Maple Leaf

National Flag*:
               
The official ceremony inaugurating the new Canadian flag was held on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on February 15, 1965, with Governor General Georges Vanier, Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, the members of the Cabinet and thousands of Canadians in attendance.

The Canadian Red Ensign, bearing the Union Jack and the shield of the royal arms of Canada, was lowered and then, on the stroke of noon, our new maple leaf flag was raised. The crowd sang the national anthem O Canada followed by the royal anthem God Save the Queen.

The following words, spoken on that momentous day by the Honourable Maurice Bourget, Speaker of the Senate, added further symbolic meaning to our flag: "The flag is the symbol of the nation's unity, for it, beyond any doubt, represents all the citizens of Canada without distinction of race, language, belief or opinion."

The Maple Leaf*:
                                Well before the coming of the first European settlers, Canada's aboriginal peoples had discovered the food properties of maple sap, which they gathered every spring. According to many historians, the maple leaf began to serve as a Canadian symbol as early as 1700.

In 1834, the first St. Jean Baptiste Society in North America made the maple leaf its emblem.

In 1836, Le Canadien, a newspaper published in Lower Canada, referred to it as a suitable emblem for Canada.

In 1848, the Toronto literary annual The Maple Leaf referred to it as the chosen emblem of Canada. By 1860, the maple leaf was incorporated into the badge of the 100th Regiment (Royal Canadians) and was used extensively in decorations for the visit of the Prince of Wales that year.

Alexander Muir wrote The Maple Leaf Forever as Canada's confederation song in 1867; it was regarded as the national song for several decades. The coats of arms created the next year for Ontario and Quebec both included the maple leaf.

The maple leaf today appears on the penny. However, between 1876 and 1901, it appeared on all Canadian coins. The modern one-cent piece has two maple leaves on a common twig, a design that has gone almost unchanged since 1937.

During the First World War, the maple leaf was included in the badge of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Since 1921, the Royal Arms of Canada have included three maple leaves as a distinctive Canadian emblem. With the proclamation of Canada's new flag in 1965, the maple leaf has become the most-prominent Canadian symbol.

In 1939, at the time of World War II, many Canadian troops used the maple leaf as a distinctive sign, displaying it on regimental badges and Canadian army and naval equipment.

In 1957, the colour of the maple leaves on the arms of Canada was changed from green to red, one of Canada's official colours.

On February 15, 1965, the red maple leaf flag was inaugurated as the National Flag of Canada.

* Source: Information provided by Permanent Mission of the Canada to the OAS. All Information contained within these World Wide Web Pages is Copyright Department of Canadian Heritage. All Rights Reserved. All Trademarks and other copyright notices mentioned herein belong to their respective owners. 

 

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Updated: 19 March 2008


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