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The Adoption of the Canadian Flag

The adoption of a distinctive national flag in 1965 effectively ended almost a hundred years of debate on the issue, in Parliament as elsewhere in the country. Until that year, the official flag of Canada was the Royal Union Flag. Its claim was not unchallenged, however. The Red Ensign, the flag of the Canadian Merchant Maine, was flown on Canadian buildings overseas as authorized by the federal government in 1924 and was often flown unofficially on buildings within Canada as well, including the Peace Tower of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa.

In Parliament itself much time was spent, in the House and in the committees, on consideration of the design and the implications of a distinctively Canadian flag but no definite action was taken until 1963. In that year the Prime Minster, the Right Honourable Lester B. Pearson declared that Canada would have its own flag within two years. The promise was kept, but not without a great deal of spirited debate in the Commons and indeed, throughout the country. Tradition and sense of nationhood were effectively synthesized in the design eventually chosen which was approved by resolution of the House of Commons on December 15, 1964 by a vote of 163 to 78, after thirty-three days of debate, and endorsed by resolution of the Senate. On January 28 in the following year, the Queen signed the official proclamation and on February 15 the red and white maple leaf was hoisted on the flag staff of the Peace Tower in Ottawa for the first time.

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