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The great Canadian flag debate became one of the more emotional and public issues of Lester Pearson's early years as Prime Minister. Canada's official national flag was the Union Jack but it had used the red ensign with a Canadian coat of arms emblazed upon it, in many circumstances.

As Canada gained a stronger sense of it's own nationalism during the First World War it began to look for symbols of that nationhood and in 1925 Mackenzie King introduced the idea of creating a flag that was uniquely Canadian. A Parliamentary Committee was created to explore possible designs for a flag and report back to the House of Commons. That results of the committee were inconclusive due to symbolism relating to Britain being included on the flag. The debate became a yearly exercise in attempting to compromise and failing.

After the Second World War the issue was revived in earnest but once again broke down over whether to include a union jack on the flag somewhere which English MP's were in favour of and French MP's against. King once again let the debate die down and then let the issue drop.

In 1963 Pearson felt that the time was right to try once again but this time he was completely in favour of eliminating the Union Jack and designing a completely Canadian style flag. he NDP supported a flag with a Maple Leaf while Diefenbaker wanted to include symbols from both French and English cultures. John Matheson was appointed to formulate a specific proposal that could b brought to Parliament for a vote. His committee came up with the current Canadian flag of two red bars on either side of a white are with a red maple leaf.

The debate began in Parliament and dragged on for months but finally was brought to a vote and was passed by 163 Liberals voting for it and 73 Conservatives voting against it. The flag was raised on February 15th, 1965 and has become the most enduring symbol of Canadian nationalism since that time.