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The original 1965 flag (Canada)

Last modified: 2015-03-07 by rob raeside
Keywords: canadian pale: original |
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Rediscovery of the original flag

Reported on the national TV news (15 February 2000) was the "discovery" of the first Canadian maple leaf flag. The flag was first flown on 15 February, 1965, but no-one seemed to know what happened to the actual flag that was raised on that day. It turns out that the the then-prime minister, Lester B. Pearson, took the flag and put it up in the Liberal Party caucus board room, where it has been ever since. A newspaper reporter started digging, and found it. The modern Liberals (again the governing party) claim that they knew that was the original flag all along, and have now donated it to a heritage museum. Of course the opposition parties all cried foul, claiming the Liberals had deliberately hidden it.
Rob Raeside, 16 February 2000

The flag has been found since then and I believe I sent to the list information related to the finding. Anyway, the flag has returned to Canada, as explained on CBC news, 15 February 2006:


Prime Minister Stephen Harper was on hand for a special ceremony in Ottawa on Wednesday celebrating the flag's return. The flag was first raised over the Peace Tower in the capital during a ceremony on Feb. 15, 1965.

Glenn Wright was the federal archivist who was responsible for finding out what happened.

Lowering that first banner "was a bit of a letdown," he said. "It just slipped their mind."

Not knowing what else to do, Parliament Hill staff gave the flag to Lucien Lamoureux, then deputy Speaker of the House. He later became Canada's ambassador to Belgium.

In 1998, still in Belgium, a terminally ill Lamoureux asked soldier Jack Stevenson to drape his coffin with the flag, then return it to Canada. But in the distress surrounding the funeral, Lamoureux's widow, Elisabeth Hoffmann-Lamoureux, couldn't find the flag.

"I promised him at the time that I would look after that request," said Stevenson. "Unfortunately, that never happened."

But Stevenson never forgot his promise, and when he heard Ottawa had lost track of that first flag, he got in touch. After a series of delays and setbacks Hoffmann-Lamoureux was in a pension dispute with the government the flag was finally returned in time for Canada Day last year.


The flag will be on display for the next month in the Hall of Honour in the Parliament Buildings."

Ivan Sache, 24 February 2006

The pictures of the original 15 February 1965 ceremony show a flag approx. 3x6 ft (1x2m) being raised in front of the Parliament Buildings.(1)

The story seems to talk about the first flag raised atop the peace tower. The peace tower flag is a much larger flag (7 feet x 15feet / 2.5 x 5m). It is possible that there are at least two "first flags".?

(1) Archbold [abd02] pp 109-110
Dean McGee, 26 February 2006

Woman who sewed the first flag honoured

When most Canadians contemplate their national flag, their thoughts might naturally turn to Canada Day, July 1. Historians and others may think about Feb. 15, the day in 1965 when the modern George Stanley-designed Canadian flag - bearing its familiar hallmark symbol, the Maple Leaf - was first raised on Parliament Hill. For Joan O'Malley, Nov. 6, 1964, will forever be the birthday of Canada's iconic red-and-white banner, the day her father, Ken Donovan, an assistant purchasing director with the Canadian Government Exhibition Commission, asked her to do an impromptu sewing job that she will never forget.

"For me, it's my 50th anniversary," O'Malley told a small gathering of friends, family and political dignitaries Friday on Parliament Hill, where she was presented with the flag that flew from the Peace Tower on Nov. 6 this year. With her original Singer sewing machine on display, O'Malley described the night her father approached her to ask whether she could sew the three prototypes that had been chosen as the finalists to become Canada's new emblem. A November snowstorm had fallen over the nation's capital and O'Malley was just home from work with her husband Brian and expecting to spend the evening indoors. But O'Malley's father Ken Donovan, an assistant purchasing director with the Canadian Government Exhibition Commission, called his then-20-year-old daughter with an urgent request.

That afternoon, Lester B. Pearson had asked that the three flag prototypes that were under consideration be delivered to 24 Sussex Drive so he could see them hoisted on poles at the prime minister's Harrington Lake retreat the next day. Pearson had come to office with a minority government under a promise made in 1963 that under his leadership, Canada would have a new flag. The final three designs had been picked from a list of entries that totalled more than 3,500. Pearson's preference was a flag with three red maple leaves on a white background and blue on either side, a design that became known as the Pearson Pennant.

But O'Malley said she knew her favourite right away as she saw the prototypes sprawled across a makeshift table of plywood on top of two saw horses. "I remember when they first put our flag on my sewing table, I said, That's the one that would get my vote," she said. "It was nice, clean looking." The flag she liked most was, in fact, one designed by historian George Stanley and submitted at the last minute.

The debate over which emblem to choose was a raucous one, pitting Pearson and his design against the Conservatives. In the end, Pearson's Liberals voted unanimously with the Conservatives in favour of Stanley's now-familiar red-and-white design. At the time, O'Malley didn't give much thought to the significance of what she was sewing. "I didn't think it was history in the making at all," she said. "I just knew that they had to have it done and I needed to help my dad out."

Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre said he's not yet sure where O'Malley's now famous sewing machine will be put on display, but promised that it would be retained by the federal government as a historical artifact. "It will be preserved as a national treasure," Poilievre said before presenting O'Malley with the Peace Tower flag.

Unlike Betsy Ross, who was paid to produce flags and, as legend has it, sewed the first American Stars and Stripes banner, O'Malley didn't receive a cent for putting the finishing touches on Canada's original flag. Receiving recognition for her efforts, 50 years later, was thanks enough, she said. "Now I think I'm paid in full," O'Malley said tearfully as she received a standing ovation.
Rob Raeside, 14 November 2014