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February 15. 2015 – 50th Anniversary of National Flag Day of Canada

February 15th marks the 50th anniversary of National Flag Day in Canada when we celebrate this enduring emblem of what it means to be a proud Canadian.

On February 15, 1965, Canada’s red and white maple leaf flag flew for the very first time. Governor General Georges Vanier, Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson and thousands of Canadians watched on Parliament Hill as 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 12 o’clock noon, Canada’s new flag was raised.

The national discussion that preceded this milestone in Canada’s history was not without acrimony. On June 15, 1964, Prime Minister Pearson opened what became known as the Great Flag Debate. The debate over Canada’s national flag not only divided Members of Parliament but Canadians as well. Parliamentary wrangling dragged on through the summer and, on September 10th the Prime Minister announced that an All Party Committee of the House of Commons would recommend a design for Canada’s flag. On October 29th, the Committee unanimously recommended a red maple leaf on a field of white, flanked by two vertical red bars.

The final phase of the flag debate began on November 30, 1964 and lasted fourteen days – with Opposition Leader John Diefenbaker mounting a filibuster arguing for the retention of the Canadian Red Ensign. On December 15th, the final vote was 163 MPs in favour of the new flag and 78 MPs opposed.

The Canadian Flag – the Maple Leaf – is one of this country’s most recognizable symbols around the world. The flag reflects our Canadian values of freedom, peace and justice and unites all Canadians as we Respect our neighbours; Accept our differences; Celebrate our rich diversity; and, Embrace our heritage.