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Canada - history of the flag (1867-1870)

Last modified: 2013-06-29 by rob raeside
Keywords: canada | red ensign: canada | history: red ensign: canada |
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Unofficial flag 1868-1870
[Canada - 1868 (unofficial)] image by Herman De Wael

See also:

The Red Ensign

Chronology of the Canadian Blue and Red Ensigns

original text by Dean Tiegs - 21 December 1997, additions inserted at appropriate places.

Some information from "The Flags of Canada - chapter IV - the Canadian Ensigns" by Alistair B. Fraser.

01 July 1867

The Dominion of Canada is formed by confederation of the provinces of Canada (which is divided into Ontario and Quebec on this date), Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. Presumably the new Dominion adopted the 1865 Blue Ensign of the old province of Canada.
Dean Tiegs, 21 December 1997

26 May 1868

A royal warrant grants arms to the four provinces and creates the Great Seal of Canada, which is the four provincial arms quarterly.

Though the Great Seal looked like a coat of arms, it technically was not.

The Canadian Red Ensign was probably created shortly after this (without formal authority) and flown over Parliament, but I have no date for this.

The Nova Scotia arms did not look like the current ones. They were gold with a wavy blue horizontal bar charged with a silver salmon, with two thistles above and one below. The Quebec arms were not quite the same as what is commonly claimed to be the Quebec arms today (the arms have never officially been changed): the top division was gold with two blue fleurs-de-lis instead of blue with three gold fleurs-de-lis.
Dean Tiegs, 21 December 1997

I recently bought a plate of the flags and badges of the British Empire from c.1921-22 with the pre-1921 Canadian Blue Ensign. This clearly shows the order as being:

  • 1st: (top-left) Ontario
  • 2nd: (top-right) Quebec
  • 3rd: (bottom-left) Nova Scotia
  • 4th: (bottom-right) New Brunswick

It is difficult to tell at the small scale on the Ensign, but there is a separate picture of the New Brunswick shield on its own which clearly has the galley sailing to the right.
Roy Stilling, 19 October 1998

My understanding, however, is that this shield was not displayed on a Red Ensign. Although it is true that the undefaced Red Ensign was a favourite flag of many Canadians in 1860s, 70s, and 80s, permission to deface the Red Ensign with the Canadian arms was not granted until c. 1892, (as part of a war of words with the Admiralty)
Glen Hodgins, 19 October 1998

16 December 1868

On December 16, 1868, the colonial secretary notified the governor general that colonial government ships "shall use the blue ensign with the seal or badge of the Colony in the fly thereof." (Fraser)

28 February 1870

Great Seal badge authorised as defacement on Blue Ensign.
David Prothero, 26 July 1998

However, according to Fraser, this only occurred on :

16 July 1870

Official Approval for the Blue ensign with the great seal is given. (Fraser)

Canadian blue ensign, 1870
[Canada - Blue ensign of 1870] image by Herman De Wael

Apparently, this is one day too late, as one day earlier, Manitoba became the fifth province.

This flag is used (inappropriately on land) in a parade in Victoria on 1 July 1871 to commemorate the confederation of British Columbia. (Fraser)

history continues
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