The National Flag of Canada, a standardized symbol
The National Flag of Canada has proudly represented Canada since it was first officially flown from Parliament on February 15, 1965. Today, the red maple leaf on a white background is one of the most recognizable symbols around the world.
The story of the great flag debate and how Canada chose its national flag is famous, but less well known is the story of what happened after the Maple Leaf was unveiled. Issues began within two months of the flag first being raised on Parliament Hill. The brilliant red maple leaf quickly faded into a variety of colours, ranging from pink to orange to rust, and virtually none of it stayed red.
On June 1, 1965, Prime Minister Lester Pearson tasked the Department of National Defence (DND) with maintaining the integrity of the new national flag. As one of the country’s primary flag users, DND maintained specifications for various flags—the Red Ensign, the Blue Ensign, and the Navy and Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Ensigns. An interdepartmental committee was formed, including representatives from DND and from the Canadian Government Specifications Board (now known as the Canadian General Standards Board). Together, they created the first national flag standard, 98-GP-1, A Standard for the National Flag of Canada (Nylon Taffeta), which was published on June 1, 1966.
In 1972, the Canadian government began to heavily promote the maple leaf as a national symbol of Canada. The Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) took ownership of the National Flag of Canada standards in that same year, and convened the first meetings of the new national flag committee on May 2, 1972. A new standard was published in October 1974.
Today, CGSB still leads the National Flag of Canada Committee, which maintains three separate flag standards, each having specific requirements for the fabric, stitching, grommets, colours, and dimensions:
- CAN/CGSB-98.1, National Flag of Canada (Outdoor Use);
- CAN/CGSB-98.2, National Flag of Canada (Indoor Use);
- CAN/CGSB-98.3, National Flag of Canada (One-event-only Use).
Since the adoption of the National Flag of Canada Manufacturing Standards Act, flags purchased by all Government of Canada agencies, boards, Crown corporations, offices, and departments must conform to these CGSB standards.
This February 15th, millions of Canadians will celebrate the 57th anniversary of the national flag first being raised on Parliament Hill. The Maple Leaf that flies over Parliament will retain its brilliant colour, thanks to the national flag standards that CGSB is proud to maintain.
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