Canada was nearly 100 years old before it officially adopted the maple leaf as its national symbol. The debate over what design truly represented the country raged on for decades—in the pages of newspapers and within the House of Commons. Canadians were even invited to submit their own flag suggestions to a multi-party flag committee, and the government received thousands of prospective designs.
The Maple Leaf was raised on Parliament Hill for the first time on February 15, 1965. Here are some designs it beat.
The colonial flag
Three finalists were selected in October 1964. All three had the maple leaf front and center, but this one added in the Union Jack in the top left corner and the fleur-de-lis in the right. The two symbols paid homage to the country’s British and French heritage.
The other finalist featured three smaller leaves branched together between two blue borders. Though designed by Commander Alan Beddoe, it was known as "Pearson's Pennant" because it was the top pick of PM Lester B. Pearson.
A light shining over one Canada
This bright yellow leaf appears in a tunnel of white that cuts across a blue background. The white beacon represents “a light shining over one Canada."
The green leaf of summer
The maple leaf ultimately chosen to represent Canada is the deep red of changing fall foliage, but some people would have preferred the green leaf of summer. This design nods to better weather along with Canada's colonial heritage.
Out of the mouths of babes
This design was submitted by a Grade 11 student from Alberta. Drawn in crayon, the flag would feature 10 blue maples leaves — one for each province — surrounding a single red maple leaf to represent the Dominion of Canada.
Our very own star-spangled banner
This red, white and blue design is meant to include both British and French culture—although it seems more like a nod to our neighbours to the south.
A little bit of everything
Many submissions featured Canada’s favourite animal, the beaver. This design covers all the bases by combining the iconic rodent with maple leafs, a red and white colour scheme, and blue borders symbolizing the oceans.
In this monochrome design the geese seem to be running away from all national symbols. Perhaps they've begun their migration south?
The origin of this design is still unknown, but it makes a good point: Who better to unify the nation than the Fab Four?