Why does the Union Jack not appear in the Canadian flag?

As I understand, Canada is a Commonwealth country; like Australia or New Zealand. I have also been informed that all Commonwealth countries must have the Union Jack in the top left hand side of their flag. Why does this not apply to the Canadian flag? and furthermore, what is the meaning of the maple leaf and the red n white of the flag?

>> I have also been informed that all Commonwealth countries must have the Union Jack in the top left hand side of their flag.

You have, obviously, been informed wrong.

Such a simple answer…

Still there’s the matter of what does all the stuff in the flag mean?

Not much.

Read more about it:

Maples are plentiful in eastern Canada.

Prior to the adoption of the current flag, in 1965, there had been several Union-Jack-based designs in use.


The maple leaf is just a symbol, and I’ve heard that the red represents the blood of our brave soldiers and the white represents peace. But, I really don’t believe that, myself.

…Bloody fast replies

I’m no expert, but I read somewhere that the Maple leaf is on the flag because Canadians in (the war of 1812)?? in order to distinguish themselves from the enemy, us! (the US)
Since there were so many civilians involved who had no uniforms, the locals (Canadians) actually would pin a maple leaf to their shirts/coats so they would be recognized.

Anyway, that’s kinda how I remember it. I think I’ll see if I can get a cite.

The flag jovan found in this link is known as the Canadian Red Ensign. It came to be used as the flag of the Dominion of Canada until 1965, when the government of the day decided it was time to find a new, genuinely Canadian flag.

A competition was held, asking for citizens to send in submissions suggesting a new flag and explaining why their flag was appropriate.

Most submissions contained some mix of the colours red and white, and occasionally blue. The red and white had been chosen as the official colours of Canada by the King in the early twentieth century (I can’t remember the date or the monarch’s name). The blue was usually used to represent the distinct francophone heritage of the country.

In the end, the committee in Ottawa couldn’t choose a flag from among the submissions, so the decided on the current one, drawn as sort of a composite of some of the best entries. One of the flags that almost won was of similar design, in slightly deeper red, and three leaves (on one stem) in the middle, similar to the design that appears in the bottom of the escutcheon on the Red Ensign.

The current Canadian Flag is a red rectangle whose length is twice its height, bearing in the centre a white square which in turn carries a maple leaf with nine points. (Most national flags of other countries have a length of one-and-a-half-times their height, or approximately so).

I’m not sure on the origin of the maple leaf… but it’s been used as a symbol of the various colonies in Northern North America for centruies. I once, in a magazine, saw an old crest used to represent New France. It had a beaver with a maple leaf in its mouth.

BTW – The two fields of red on either side of the leaf represent the Atlantic & Pacific oceans and the number of points on the leaf represent the number of provinces and territories (Well, at least they did before the addition of Nunavut a couple of years ago). Yeah, I know… why are the panels red if they are supposed to be water? That might have something to do with the Liberal government being in power at the time.


The way I heard it was that they wanted to avoid the flag being red, white, and blue.

The symbol was picked because the government in Ottawa had made a deal with Conn Smythe.

52 countries are members of the Commonwealth. Of these, only five carry representations of the Union Flag (aka Union Jack), including the UK itself. Canada isn’t the only one to have dropped that emblem; South Africa is another well-known example.

BTW, four Commonwealth countries carry representations of the Southern Cross star constellation on their flags. As a little trivia question, which South American country has the Southern Cross on its flag?

One serious proposal that almost carried the day would have had the stripes blue and leaf green. It certainly would have been a more restful flag and it would have been self-explanatory.

Actually, BobT, one of the designs had blue maple leaves!!

Found a photo of some of the contenders in 1964 for the new flag:


and, from the National Archives of Canada, some of the 3,000 plus designs submitted:


I can’t understand why this one didn’t win:

India should also have been included in the list from that link.

Government of Canada Site

That number of points thing only works if you count the nine tope points, the two little bottom points, and the stem, for a total of twelve. Prior to the establishment of Nunavut (a terrritory carved out of the eastern part of the Northwest Territories) there were ten provinces and two territories.

I think the GC site linked above should answer most of the related questions.


Originally posted by Everton

Not quite. South Africa, under fire from the rest of the Commonwealth (and much of the rest of the world) for its apartheid policy, broke with the British Commonwealth, as it was called then, around 1961, although a contemporary issue of The World Almanac noted the country was still “in the sterling bloc,” what ever that is.

South Africa didn’t have the “Union Jack” as the canton anyway. It didn’t have a canton at all, but rather three horizontal stripes–blue, white, and red, I believe, with three flags clustered in the middle of the white stripe, including that very same flag; the British “Union Jack”; and, apparently, an old flag for Natal or one of the other subdivisons. In any case, according to the flag books I saw at that time, it didn’t use the British flag as a canton.

To clarify, I never said the Union Flag was in the canton of the old South African flag, I said it “dropped that emblem”. Until 1994, that country’s flag was based, I believe, on the flag of the House of Orange; horizontal stripes of orange (not red), white and blue. At the centre were three small flags as you say, which from left to right were for the Orange Free State, the British Union Flag and Transvaal. More can be read here.

South Africa was readmitted to the Commonwealth in June 1994.

Oh, I should have said that’s the right answer.