Dominion Day

Canadians have a national holiday today called Dominion Day (renamed as Canada Day). But what is the symbolism behind this day and why might you see the Canadian Red Ensign on this Day?

On the 1st of July 1867 the Dominion of Canada was formed by uniting the four provinces Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. In essence this was the formation of the first country to obtain legislative independence from the United Kingdom whilst remaining the United Kingdom’s best friend within the British Empire. This process to Dominion Status was carried out peacefully with mutual respect and affinity between Canada and the United Kingdom and because of the desire to maintain strong ties between the two nations it laid down the seeds to something beautiful, the formation of the Commonwealth of Nations.

For more information about this Commemorative tablet see below:

The political map of the Dominion of Canada looked like the following:

On this Commemorative table there is the Royal Union Flag and the first Canadian Red Ensign.

Expansion of the Dominion of Canada and the History Behind the Red Ensign

The Royal Union Flag is the land flag of the United Kingdom and the Red Ensign is the Merchant Naval Flag.

The first Canadian Red Ensign was created 1 year after the Dominion of Canada was formed, it has a Coat of Arms depicting the four original provinces:

  • Ontario
  • Quebec
  • Nova Scotia
  • New Brunswick

The Canadian Red Ensign represented a flag that represented both Canadian National Identity and a feeling of kinship to her family across the Commonwealth.

In 1870 the Dominion of Canada expanded to include Mantioba:

An unofficial Canadian Red Ensign was created with the badge updated to correspond to the additional province:

  • Ontario
  • Quebec
  • Nova Scotia
  • New Brunswick
  • Mantioba

In 1873, British Columbia and Prince Edward Island join the Dominion of Canada:

An unofficial Canada Red Ensign gets created with the badge updated to correspond to these two additional provinces:

  • Ontario
  • Quebec
  • Nova Scotia
  • New Brunswick
  • Mantioba
  • British Columbia
  • Prince Edward Island

In 1880 the Arctic Islands were transferred from the United Kingdom to the Dominion of Canada:

In 1896, another unofficial Canadian Red Ensign was updated to reflect the updated Coat of Arms of British Columbia:

In 1898 the territory of Yukon is created from the NorthWest Territories as other provinces enlarge.

In 1905, the two provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan are formed:

An unofficial Canada Red Ensign gets created with the badge updated to correspond to these two additional provinces:

  • Ontario
  • Quebec
  • Nova Scotia
  • New Brunswick
  • British Columbia
  • Prince Edward Island
  • Alberta
  • Saskatchewan
  • Mantioba

In 1912, there is further expansion of the provinces into Northwest Territories:

Due to the complications of the Canadian Red Ensign and the number of unofficial variants, it got updated in 1921 to he following:

This Red Ensign contains the following:

  • Royal Arms of England
  • The Royal Banner of Scotland
  • The Irish Harp
  • Fleur-De-Lis
  • Maple Leafs (green)

The Canadian Coat of Arms was also created:

A Mari Usque Ad Mare.

He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.

There was also a proposed Canadian Red Ensign in 1946 which made the Maple Leaf more prominent:

In 1949, Newfoundland and Labrador, previously a separate Dominion joined the Dominion of Canada:

The Red Ensign of the Dominion of New Foundland:

In 1957, the Canadian Red Ensign was updated slightly to give Red Maple Leafs:

The Coat of Arms was also updated:

Desiderantes Meliorem Patriam.

They desire a better Country.

In 1964 there was a televised debate (video below) lead by the Liberal Government to change the Canadian Flag. This was an extremely contentious policy at the time:

There were 2 main designs being considered, the Pearson Pennant and the Maple Leaf:


In 1965, the Maple Leaf was selected as the National Flag and this was pushed through without a referendum.

As a form of backlash, the provinces of Ontario and Mantioba immediately adopted Red Ensigns as Provincial Flags:

In 1992 the territory of Nunavut was created from the remainder of the Northwest Territories giving the current political map of Canada.

In modern times, there is a desire to maintain and strengthen the close ties between Canada and the United Kingdom and to establish freedom of movement between both countries. This is highlighted in the objectives of the CANZUK treaty proposed by the Canadian Conservative Party.

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