The flag of Canada is relatively new – Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson spearheaded the mission to provide our country with its own national flag in 1965. Before that date, Canada had a number of different flags denoting our membership in the British Commonwealth, rather than our status as a sovereign nation.
When the new Canadian flag was being designed, many people proposed the beaver as the central symbol, as beavers can be found in more areas of Canada than the sugar maple tree. However, Canadian soldiers and athletes abroad had already been displaying the leaf of the sugar maple tree on helmets and uniforms, and Canada already possessed the rousing patriotic anthem ‘The Maple Leaf Forever’, written for Confederation in 1867. Because of these and other reasons, the maple leaf was deemed to have more iconic Canadian symbolism than the beaver and won billing on our flag.
While we do not have ‘flag law’ as in the United States, we look to Canadian flag etiquette to denote how to properly fly the flag – such as ‘Projected from a building’ or ‘Affixed on a motor vehicle’. This flag etiquette can also help us avoid inappropriate uses (which can be found on the Canadian Heritage website).
February 15 is National Flag of Canada Day, since it was on this day in 1965 that the Canadian flag as we now know it was first flown. However, the majority of Canadians choose to celebrate our flag on July 1st, which is the national holiday Canada Day, commemorating the day of the year on which Canada became a country.