Here’s a weird fact, did you know that the iconic maple leaf design on the Canadian flag is relatively new? While it seems like a design as old as time itself, the flag wasn’t officially introduced until 1965. What was here before it? And, what were the other options? Well, let’s check it out.

union jack
Image via GoC

Turns out, European settlers in Canada tended to rock their own country’s flags. And of course, the most popular of these was the Union Jack representing Britain. This was the flag chosen to represent Canada after Confederation in 1867. But as Canada grew, a new flag was needed.

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canada flag
Image via GoC

So, Britain did what it did with pretty much any of its colonies- it granted us a national Coat of Arms and plopped the Union Jack down in the corner. Known as the Canadian Red Ensign, this flag was in use with little changes between 1921 (when King George V gave it the OK) and 1965. Really, the only major thing that happened was changing the maple leaves from green to red.

Attempts were made to change the flag during the time, but were shut down due to fears that it would lead to ‘political instability’. However, in 1963, then-PM Lester Pearson promised to fix what he called the ‘flag problem’. Gee, if only they had focused on other, more pressing issues with Canadian residents. So it goes, we guess.

canada flag pearson
Image via GoC

While thousands of designs were submitted during the search, three, in particular, were chosen as finalists. Pearson himself threw a hat in the ring with a red, white and blue design that used a portion of the national coat of arms.

Image via GoC
canada flag beaver
Image via

Yet another finalist featured a similar design to what we have now, but with a notable difference- the inclusion of both French (the Fleur de Lys) and British (Union Jack) symbols. Our personal favourite? A flag featuring a beaver just chilling on a branch, with green borders.

Image via GoC

But even back then, simplicity won out. A design by George Stanley, featuring a minimalist approach, ended up being the favourite of the finalists. Even that wasn’t simple enough, though- revisions made to the flag dropped the number of points on the leaf from 13 to 11, to make it easier to see from afar.

Although PM Pearson promised to have a new flag by 1967, he actually got the job done some two years early. On January 28th, 1965, Queen Elizabeth II gave her approval, and Canada got a new flag! Take this info to your next Canada-related trivia night.