The Canadian Flag

The old Canadian flag in the background and the new Canadian flag in the foreground.

To honor the maple’s symbolic importance for Canada, a big maple leaf is placed on the Canadian flag. However, it has not always been there. Before 1965, Canada flew a different flag, featuring a Union Jack in the canton. The old flag, logically enough, represented the country’s historical ties to the United Kingdom.

Canadian peacekeepers mistaken for Brits

The impetus for changing banners came after a British military campaign in Egypt in 1956. During this conflict, the Union Jack became a hated symbol among many Egyptians, and British soldiers were met with hostility. Canadian troops, who had not been involved in the conflict, by war’s end, were then sent to Egypt by the United Nations to keep the peace. At that point, due to the Union Jack also appearing on the Canadian flag, angry locals confused the Canadian peacekeepers with the detested Brits, leading to the conclusion that Canada needed an unmistakably Canadian flag. This new flag was to become the red and white maple leaf banner that the country flies today.

Ties to Britain remain

Though the new maple leaf flag became devoid of any British symbolism, changing flags did not sever Canada’s ties to the United Kingdom. The British monarch continued as the country’s head of state even after the banner switch, and maintains the same role today, carrying out a number of ceremonial duties. Two of these ceremonial duties are to give Royal Assent to new Canadian laws and to preside over the swearing-in of the Canadian prime minister. However, for practical purposes, the monarch does not usually perform the duties in person. Instead, the monarch is represented by a Canadian-born governor general, who handles the matters as if he or she were the monarch.