Historical flags of Canada
Canada has a rich heritage of historical flags which are the expression of its evolution over the centuries, to its present state as a sovereign, democratic nation. When properly and appropriately displayed, these flags help to understand, appreciate and honour Canada's history.
Historical flags are those which were used in the past by the Government of Canada or its colonial predecessors in New France and British North America, to indicate jurisdiction, authority or ownership of property.
Historical flag policy
The Government of Canada is responsible for the policy governing the use of historical flags and for ensuring its proper application on all federal buildings and establishments in Canada and abroad. This policy may also be used as a guide by any Canadian citizen, organization and other levels of government.
Importance of the National Flag
Historical flags may be displayed in appropriate places in a way that always clearly gives importance to the National Flag. The National Flag of Canada was approved by Parliament and proclaimed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, on .
Learn more about the National Flag of Canada.
Rules for flying historical flags in Canada
The National Flag of Canada will always be flown on its own pole and may never be replaced by an historical flag. When historical flags are flown, the National Flag will also be flown.
Historical flags will be flown lower than and away from the National Flag. The top edge of the historical flags should never be flown higher than the lower edge of the National Flag. The distance separating the two poles will vary depending on the site but must – as with the height – emphasize the importance of the National Flag of Canada.
Occasions for flying historical flags
Today, there are many occasions or circumstances where historical flags could be displayed. Historical flags could be flown at a location where an historic event is commemorated, or they could appear during a reenactment. They can be permanent or temporary installations; they can be carried, if appropriate.
Historical flags may be flown in a particular location provided that:
- historic research demonstrates that a flag of this design has a meaningful association with the location;
- there is sufficient evidence on the design of the historical flag that it can be reproduced accurately;
- there is an educational component available to the public – such as a plaque, brochure or website – explaining the significance and rationale for its display;
- there is a separate pole for each flag, as dictated by flag protocol; and
- when flown or carried at public events, historical flags should be displayed according to the established order of precedence for flags.
Order of precedence for historical flags
If more than one historical flag is to be flown, the flags should be grouped according to the year, era or period of time they were active. For the specified year, era or period of time, the order of precedence is:
- The flag that represented the Government of Canada or its colonial predecessors in New France and British North America;
- The flags of other sovereign nations in alphabetical order (if applicable) from the period;
- The flags of the provinces of Canada (in the order in which they joined Confederation) from the period, if applicable;
- The flags of the territories of Canada (in the order in which they joined Confederation), from the period, if applicable;
- The flags of municipalities/cities from the period;
- The flags of military units from the period; and
- The flags of organizations from the period.
Responsibility and administration of the policy
The minister responsible for the administration of this policy is the Minister of Canadian Heritage.
Any queries should be brought forward to the office at Canadian Heritage responsible for its application:
Posters of historical flags
Many flags have been used to symbolize Canada, the land and the army throughout different periods of its history. The following are a list of posters that highlight some flags of Canada's past.
- A selection of flags of British North America and Canada after Confederation (PDF Format, 955 KB)
- A selection of historical flags of Canada (PDF Format, 2.0 MB) – combination of posters 1 and 2
- The evolution of the Canadian Red Ensign (PDF Format, 1.2 MB) – 1871 to 1957
- A selection of Canadian military flags in the 20th century (PDF Format, 5.5 MB)
- A selection of proposed flags for Canada (PDF Format, 1.2 MB) – 1895 to 1964
The full list of posters of historic flags is also available in HTML format.
Educational and promotional material to celebrate the Canadian flag
You can request to receive by mail educational items related to the National Flag and to historical flags of Canada. Promotional items are also available for special occasions.Order now
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