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Canadian Red Ensign

Canadian Red Ensign

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The Canadian Red Ensign is the former flag of Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, used by the federal government though it was never adopted as official by the Parliament of Canada
Parliament of Canada
The Parliament of Canada is the federal legislative branch of Canada, seated at Parliament Hill in the national capital, Ottawa. Formally, the body consists of the Canadian monarch—represented by her governor general—the Senate, and the House of Commons, each element having its own officers and...

. It is a British Red Ensign
Red Ensign
The Red Ensign or "Red Duster" is a flag that originated in the early 17th century as a British ensign flown by the Royal Navy and later specifically by British merchantmen. The precise date of its first appearance is not known, but surviving receipts indicate that the Navy was paying to have such...

, featuring the Union Flag
Union Flag
The Union Flag, also known as the Union Jack, is the flag of the United Kingdom. It retains an official or semi-official status in some Commonwealth Realms; for example, it is known as the Royal Union Flag in Canada. It is also used as an official flag in some of the smaller British overseas...

 in the canton, defaced
Defacement (flag)
Defacement is a term used in heraldry and vexillology to refer to the addition of a symbol or charge to another flag. For example, the Australian flag is the British Blue Ensign defaced with the Southern Cross in the fly and the Commonwealth Star in the lower hoist quarter, beneath the Union...

 with the shield of the Coat of Arms of Canada
Coat of arms of Canada
The Arms of Canada is, since 1921, the official coat of arms of the Canadian monarch, and thus also of Canada...

.

History




The Red Ensign was used as early as 1868 on an informal basis. As Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald
John A. Macdonald
Sir John Alexander Macdonald, GCB, KCMG, PC, PC , QC was the first Prime Minister of Canada. The dominant figure of Canadian Confederation, his political career spanned almost half a century...

 "constantly made use of it", promoting it "by precept and example" throughout Canada. From 1892, it was authorized for use on Canadian merchant ships, but it had no legal status on land (Canada's "official" flag was the Royal Union Flag until 1946). Despite its lack of official status, the Red Ensign was widely used on land as well, and flew over the Parliament Buildings
Parliament Hill
Parliament Hill , colloquially known as The Hill, is an area of Crown land on the southern banks of the Ottawa River in downtown Ottawa, Ontario. Its Gothic revival suite of buildingsthe parliament buildings serves as the home of the Parliament of Canada and contains a number of architectural...

 until 1904 when it was replaced by the Union Flag. Various versions of the Red Ensign continued to be flown on land and the flag featured prominently in patriotic displays and recruiting efforts during First World War. A Red Ensign was carried by the 5th Saskatchewan Battalion during the Battle of Vimy Ridge
Battle of Vimy Ridge
The Battle of Vimy Ridge was a military engagement fought primarily as part of the Battle of Arras, in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France, during the First World War. The main combatants were the Canadian Corps, of four divisions, against three divisions of the German Sixth Army...

. It can be seen in numerous photographs of Canadian troops, on the prime minister's car, and in victory parades.

The original Canadian Red Ensign had the arms of the four founding provinces on its shield. However, in the late 19th and early 20th century, flag manufacturers would often supplement this design with laurel wreaths and crowns. The design was frequently placed on a white square or circle in the flag's fly (right hand side assuming the flagpole to be on the left). There was no standard design for the Red Ensign until the early 1920s. In 1921, the Government of Canada asked King George V
George V of the United Kingdom
George V was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India, from 6 May 1910 through the First World War until his death in 1936....

 to order a new coat of arms for Canada. The College of Arms
College of Arms
The College of Arms, or Heralds’ College, is an office regulating heraldry and granting new armorial bearings for England, Wales and Northern Ireland...

 thus designed a suitable coat of arms of Canada
Coat of arms of Canada
The Arms of Canada is, since 1921, the official coat of arms of the Canadian monarch, and thus also of Canada...

. The new shield was displayed on the Red Ensign, thus producing a new version the Canadian Red Ensign in 1922. In 1924, the Red Ensign was approved for use on Canadian government buildings outside Canada. The Canadian Red Ensign, through history, tradition and custom was finally formalized on September 5, 1945, when the Governor General of Canada
Governor General of Canada
The Governor General of Canada is the federal viceregal representative of the Canadian monarch, Queen Elizabeth II...

 signed an Order-in-Council (P.C. 5888) which stated that "The Red Ensign with the Shield of the Coat of arms in the fly (to be referred to as 'The Canadian Red Ensign') may be flown from buildings owned or occupied by the Canadian federal Government within or without Canada shall be appropriate to fly as a distinctive Canadian flag." So in 1945, the flag was officially approved for use by government buildings inside Canada as well, and once again flew over Parliament.

The Red Ensign served until 1965 when it was replaced by today's Maple Leaf Flag
Flag of Canada
The national flag of Canada, also known as the Maple Leaf, and , is a red flag with a white square in its centre, featuring a stylized 11-pointed red maple leaf. Its adoption in 1965 marked the first time a national flag had been officially adopted in Canada to replace the Union Flag...

. The flag bore various forms of the shield from the Canadian coat of arms in its fly during the period of its use. The picture (top) shows the official form between 1957 and 1965. From 1921 until 1957, the Canadian Red Ensign was virtually the same, except that the leaves in the coat of arms
Coat of arms
A coat of arms is a unique heraldic design on a shield or escutcheon or on a surcoat or tabard used to cover and protect armour and to identify the wearer. Thus the term is often stated as "coat-armour", because it was anciently displayed on the front of a coat of cloth...

 were green, and there was a slight alteration to the Irish harp (the earlier version having a woman's bust as part of the harp). A blue ensign
Blue Ensign
The Blue Ensign is a flag, one of several British ensigns, used by certain organisations or territories associated with the United Kingdom. It is used either plain, or defaced with a badge or other emblem....

, also bearing the shield of the Canadian coat of arms, was the jack flown by the Royal Canadian Navy
Royal Canadian Navy
The history of the Royal Canadian Navy goes back to 1910, when the naval force was created as the Naval Service of Canada and renamed a year later by King George V. The Royal Canadian Navy is one of the three environmental commands of the Canadian Forces...

 and the ensign of other ships owned by the Canadian government until 1965. From 1865 until Canadian Confederation
Canadian Confederation
Canadian Confederation was the process by which the federal Dominion of Canada was formed on July 1, 1867. On that day, three British colonies were formed into four Canadian provinces...

 in 1867, the United Province of Canada could also have used a blue ensign, but there is little evidence such a flag was ever used. In O.R. Jacobi's painting of the new Parliament Buildings in 1866, a Red Ensign flies from the tower of the East Block.

Variations


Before the design of the Red Ensign was standardized in 1921, flag makers would make the badge larger each time a new province
Provinces and territories of Canada
The provinces and territories of Canada combine to make up the world's second-largest country by area. There are ten provinces and three territories...

 was added to the Confederation
Canadian Confederation
Canadian Confederation was the process by which the federal Dominion of Canada was formed on July 1, 1867. On that day, three British colonies were formed into four Canadian provinces...

. This led to the creation of several unofficial but widely used flags.

Others



Today, two Canadian provincial flags are Red Ensigns, the flag of Ontario
Flag of Ontario
The flag of Ontario was enacted by the Flag Act on May 21, 1965 in the Legislature of the Province of Ontario. The flag is a defaced Red Ensign, with the Union Flag in the canton and the Ontario shield of arms in the fly....

 and the flag of Manitoba
Flag of Manitoba
The flag of Manitoba is a variation of the Red Ensign which bears the shield of the provincial coat of arms. This flag was approved by the passage of a bill in the Manitoba Legislative Assembly on May 11, 1965. Queen Elizabeth II having given permission for the use of the Union device in October...

, both of which were introduced when the Canadian Red Ensign was replaced by the Maple Leaf Flag
Flag of Canada
The national flag of Canada, also known as the Maple Leaf, and , is a red flag with a white square in its centre, featuring a stylized 11-pointed red maple leaf. Its adoption in 1965 marked the first time a national flag had been officially adopted in Canada to replace the Union Flag...

. The Liberal
Liberal Party of Canada
The Liberal Party of Canada , colloquially known as the Grits, is the oldest federally registered party in Canada. In the conventional political spectrum, the party sits between the centre and the centre-left. Historically the Liberal Party has positioned itself to the left of the Conservative...

 government of Lester Pearson promised to introduce a new flag to replace the Red Ensign, as a means of promoting national unity and a new Canadian identity
Canadian identity
Canadian identity refers to the set of characteristics and symbols that many Canadians regard as expressing their unique place and role in the world....

, by replacing what was seen as a symbol of the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 and colonialism
Colonialism
Colonialism is the establishment, maintenance, acquisition and expansion of colonies in one territory by people from another territory. It is a process whereby the metropole claims sovereignty over the colony and the social structure, government, and economics of the colony are changed by...

, with one that would be more inclusive of Canadians who are not of British stock, particularly French-Canadians. In 1965, after the Great Flag Debate in Parliament and throughout the country as a whole, the Maple Leaf flag was adopted. Groups such as the Royal Canadian Legion
Royal Canadian Legion
The Royal Canadian Legion is a non-profit Canadian ex-service organization founded in 1925, with more than 400,000 members worldwide. Membership includes people who have served as current and former military, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, provincial and municipal police, direct relatives of...

 and others who had sympathies with maintaining Canada's links to Britain
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 opposed the new flag as they saw it as a means of loosening that connection. The leader of the Progressive Conservative Party
Progressive Conservative Party of Canada
The Progressive Conservative Party of Canada was a Canadian political party with a centre-right stance on economic issues and, after the 1970s, a centrist stance on social issues....

, John Diefenbaker
John Diefenbaker
John George Diefenbaker, PC, CH, QC was the 13th Prime Minister of Canada, serving from June 21, 1957, to April 22, 1963...

, was especially passionate in his defence of the Red Ensign. In protest of the federal government's decision, Progressive Conservative governments in Manitoba and Ontario adopted red ensigns as their provincial flags.

Use today


The Canadian Red Ensign continues to be flown by some Canadians, especially monarchist
Monarchism in Canada
Canadian monarchism is the appreciation amongst Canadians for, and thus also advocacy for the retention of, their distinct system of constitutional monarchy, countering anti-monarchical reform as being generally revisionist, idealistic, and ultimately impracticable...

s, other traditionalists, and those who cherish Canada's British heritage. The Canadian Red Ensign is part of the official colour party (together with the Maple Leaf) of the Royal Canadian Legion, and by many individual Canadians, especially in parts of the country populated by the descendants of United Empire Loyalists.
A Red Ensign (currently the 1868 version donated by the Royal Canadian Legion
Royal Canadian Legion
The Royal Canadian Legion is a non-profit Canadian ex-service organization founded in 1925, with more than 400,000 members worldwide. Membership includes people who have served as current and former military, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, provincial and municipal police, direct relatives of...

) will now be permanently flown alongside the Maple Leaf Flag at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial
Canadian National Vimy Memorial
The Canadian National Vimy Memorial is a memorial site in France dedicated to the memory of Canadian Expeditionary Force members killed during the First World War. It also serves as the place of commemoration for First World War Canadian soldiers killed or presumed dead in France who have no known...

 following its re-dedication in April 2007. Prime Minister
Prime Minister of Canada
The Prime Minister of Canada is the primary minister of the Crown, chairman of the Cabinet, and thus head of government for Canada, charged with advising the Canadian monarch or viceroy on the exercise of the executive powers vested in them by the constitution...

 Stephen Harper
Stephen Harper
Stephen Joseph Harper is the 22nd and current Prime Minister of Canada and leader of the Conservative Party. Harper became prime minister when his party formed a minority government after the 2006 federal election...

 made the decision after lobbying by veterans groups and then-Parliamentary Secretary
Parliamentary Secretary
A Parliamentary Secretary is a member of a Parliament in the Westminster system who assists a more senior minister with his or her duties.In the parliamentary systems of several Commonwealth countries, such as the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, it is customary for the prime minister to...

 Jason Kenney
Jason Kenney
Jason T. Kenney, PC, MP is Canada's current Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. He has represented the riding of Calgary Southeast in the Canadian House of Commons since 1997....

. Supporters of the decision noted that the Red Ensign was the flag under which the Canadian Army had fought and that numerous other Canadian war memorials and historical sites fly relevant historical flags. Critics, including Liberal
Liberal Party of Canada
The Liberal Party of Canada , colloquially known as the Grits, is the oldest federally registered party in Canada. In the conventional political spectrum, the party sits between the centre and the centre-left. Historically the Liberal Party has positioned itself to the left of the Conservative...

 senators
Canadian Senate
The Senate of Canada is a component of the Parliament of Canada, along with the House of Commons, and the monarch . The Senate consists of 105 members appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister...

 Marcel Prud'homme
Marcel Prud'homme
Marcel Prud'homme, PC was a member of the Canadian Senate and was a long-time Member of Parliament in the Canadian House of Commons....

 and Roméo Dallaire
Roméo Dallaire
Lieutenant-General Roméo Antonius Dallaire, is a Canadian senator, humanitarian, author and retired general...

, attacked the move, saying the old flag belongs in a museum, not on a flagpole. "What's happening at Vimy is a dangerous precedent because it could lead to the officialization of all sorts of flags," Prud'homme said.

Canadian Blue Ensign




The Canadian blue ensign
Blue Ensign
The Blue Ensign is a flag, one of several British ensigns, used by certain organisations or territories associated with the United Kingdom. It is used either plain, or defaced with a badge or other emblem....

 is similar to the red ensign. The flag was formerly used as the jack of the Royal Canadian Navy
Royal Canadian Navy
The history of the Royal Canadian Navy goes back to 1910, when the naval force was created as the Naval Service of Canada and renamed a year later by King George V. The Royal Canadian Navy is one of the three environmental commands of the Canadian Forces...

 from its inception until the adoption of the Maple Leaf flag
Flag of Canada
The national flag of Canada, also known as the Maple Leaf, and , is a red flag with a white square in its centre, featuring a stylized 11-pointed red maple leaf. Its adoption in 1965 marked the first time a national flag had been officially adopted in Canada to replace the Union Flag...

 in 1965. The blue ensign was approved by the British Admiralty
Admiralty
The Admiralty was formerly the authority in the Kingdom of England, and later in the United Kingdom, responsible for the command of the Royal Navy...

 in 1868 for use by ships owned by the Canadian government. Carr's Flags of the World says "The Blue Ensign is charged with the shield in the fly." and "however, the aforesaid Blue Ensign is worn 'as a Jack' for distinguishing purposes when at anchor, or under way and dressed with masthead flags."

Trivia


During the early 1990s an urban myth developed reporting that the American flag
Flag of the United States
The national flag of the United States of America consists of thirteen equal horizontal stripes of red alternating with white, with a blue rectangle in the canton bearing fifty small, white, five-pointed stars arranged in nine offset horizontal rows of six stars alternating with rows...

 was printed on the Canadian two dollar bill. The myth stated that the American flag could be seen flown on the Peace Tower
Peace Tower
The Peace Tower is a focal bell and clock tower, sitting on the central axis of the Centre Block of the Canadian parliament buildings in Ottawa, Ontario. The present incarnation replaced the Victoria Tower after the latter burned down in 1916, along with most of the Centre Block...

 depicted behind Queen
Monarchy in Canada
The monarchy of Canada is the core of both Canada's federalism and its Westminster-style parliamentary democracy, being the foundation of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the Canadian government and each provincial government...

 Elizabeth II
Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom
Elizabeth II is the constitutional monarch of 16 sovereign states known as the Commonwealth realms: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize,...

on the bank note. This flag is in fact the modern Maple Leaf flag. However, on the contemporaneous $10 and $50 bills, the Canadian Red Ensign is shown, but in such a small size that it could be confused with the U.S. flag.

External links