The National Flag of Canada, also known as the Canadian Flag or the Maple Leaf Flag (l’Unifolié in French), consists of a red field with a white square at its centre atop of which sits a stylized, 11-pointed red maple leaf. A joint committee of the Senate and House of Commons voted for the present flag in 1964 against formidable odds. After months of debate, the final design, adopted by Parliament and approved by royal proclamation, became Canada’s flag on 15 February 1965.
The first government attempt to give Canada a flag came in 1925 when Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King established a committee to study the question. He immediately backed down when there was a general outcry against any attack on the Union Jack. He tried again in 1945 with a joint committee of the Senate and House of Commons, but support for the Union Jack remained strong, particularly within the Orange Order. When the committee presented its report, King again abandoned the idea for lack of consensus.
Of 2,409 designs submitted by the public to the national flag committee, maple leaves were featured in 1,611, Royal Union Flags in 383, stars in 231, fleurs-de-lys in 184, beavers in 116, crowns in 49, and crosses in 22.
An important specialist to appear before the 1945 committee was A. Fortescue Duguid, director of the Historical Section of the Canadian Army. He pointed out that red and white were Canada’s national colours as found in the coat of arms of Canada granted by King George V in 1921, and that Canada had its own emblem: three maple leaves joined at one stem on a white field, as found in the base of Canada’s Shield.