Official symbols of Canada

The following symbols have been adopted by the Government of Canada over the past century and are now considered official symbols of Canada.

The Coat of Arms

The Coat of Arms

The arms of Canada were adopted in 1921 by proclamation of His Majesty King George V. In 1994, the arms were augmented with a ribbon displaying the motto of the Order of Canada, DESIDERANTES MELIOREM PATRIAM (They desire a better country) — (the Epistle to the Hebrews, chapter 11 verse 16).

The design of the arms of Canada reflects the royal symbols of the United Kingdom and France (the three lions of England, the lion of Scotland, the fleurs-de-lis of France and the Irish harp of Tara). On the bottom portion of the shield is a sprig of three Canadian maple leaves representative of Canadians of all origins. The coat of arms is supported by the lion of England holding the Royal Union Flag and the unicorn of Scotland carrying the flag of Royal France. The crest above the shield features a crowned lion holding a red maple leaf. At the base of the arms are the floral emblems associated with the Canadian Monarchy: the English rose, the Scottish thistle, the French lily and the Irish shamrock.

The Royal Crown at the top indicates that these are the Arms of the Sovereign in right of Canada, commonly called "the Royal Arms of Canada" or "the Arms of Canada".

Our Motto

A MARI USQUE AD MARE (From sea to sea) - Psalm 72:8

The National Flag of Canada

The National Flag of Canada

The national flag of Canada was adopted by resolutions of the House of Commons and Senate in 1964 and proclaimed by Queen Elizabeth II to take effect on February 15, 1965. The anniversary of this event is observed across the country every February 15 as National Flag of Canada Day.

The adoption of the national flag of Canada was the culmination of many years of discussion, thousands of designs and a heated debate in Parliament. The search for a new Canadian flag began in 1925 when a Committee of the Privy Council began to investigate potential designs. In 1946, a parliamentary committee examined more than 2,600 submissions but could not reach agreement on a new design. As the centennial of Confederation approached, Parliament increased its efforts to choose a new flag. On February 15, 1965, the national flag of Canada was raised for the first time over Parliament Hill.

Royal Military College flagGeneral Service Medal

The flag is red and white, the official colours of Canada, with a stylized eleven-point maple leaf at its centre. The flag's proportions are two by length and one by width. The red-white-red pattern is based on the flag of the Royal Military College and the ribbon of the General Service Medal of 1899, a British decoration given to those who defended Canada in 19th-century battles. Thus, although the flag was adopted in 1965, its symbolic elements have their origins in the time of Queen Victoria.

Our Official Colours

The history of the official colours of Canada goes all the way back to the first crusade in the 11th century. Bohémond I, a Norman lord, had red crosses cut from cloaks and distributed to 10,000 crusaders. The crusaders wore the crosses on their clothes as a distinguishing mark, since they had no uniform to indicate their identity

In succeeding crusades, each nation was identified by a cross of a different colour. For a long time, France used a red cross on its banners, while England carried a white cross. In the course of history, red and white alternated as the national colours of France and England.

Red and white became Canada's official colours as a result of the proclamation of the arms of Canada by King George V in 1921.

The Maple Tree

The Maple Tree

Although the maple leaf is closely associated with Canada, the maple tree was not officially recognized as Canada's arboreal emblem until 1996.

Many Canadians in the forestry sector had long requested that the Government select the maple tree as Canada's arboreal emblem. They now enjoy the use of the maple tree as an official symbol when promoting Canada as a world leader in sustainable forest management.

The National Anthem

The National Anthem

"O Canada" was proclaimed Canada's national anthem on July 1, 1980, 100 years after it was first sung in Québec City on June 24, 1880. The music was composed by Calixa Lavallée, a well-known composer born in Verchères, Quebec. French lyrics to accompany the music were written by Adolphe-Basile Routhier, born in St-Placide, Quebec. Many English versions have appeared over the years. The version on which the official English lyrics are based was written in 1908 by Robert Stanley Weir, born in Hamilton, Ontario.

The Beaver

The Beaver

For European traders, the main mercantile attraction of North America was the beaver pelt. Fur hats were the height of fashion in Europe in the late 1600s and early 1700s. The Hudson's Bay Company, which opened much of Canada's North and West to the trade, placed beavers on the shield of its coat of arms in 1678. A coin was struck that was equal to the value of one male beaver pelt — it was known as a "buck." Parliament made the beaver an official emblem of Canada in 1975.

The National Horse of Canada

The National Horse of Canada

The Canadian Horse has its origins in the horses sent to New France by the King of France in 1665. These Norman and Breton horses from the King's royal stables were of mixed origin and included Arabian, Barb and Andalusian stock. Over the next century, the horse population of New France developed in isolation from other breeds, and, in time, became a distinct breed of its own, the Canadian Horse. The Canadian Horse is known for the qualities of great strength and endurance, resilience, intelligence and good temper that distinguish the breed. Threatened with extinction in the late 19th century, efforts were made in the late 1800s and throughout the 20th century to preserve the distinctive Canadian Horse. In 1909, the Canadian Horse was declared by Parliament to be Canada's national breed and in May 2002 it was recognized as the national horse of Canada by Act of Parliament.

Our National Sports

Our National Sports

By an Act assented to on May 12, 1994, the Parliament of Canada declared ice hockey as the national winter sport and lacrosse as the national summer sport of Canada.

Maple Leaf Tartan

Maple Leaf Tartan

The colours of the maple leaf through the changing seasons became the basis for the tartan designed by David Weiser in 1964. Known officially as the Maple Leaf Tartan, the pattern incorporates the green of the leaves' summer foliage, the gold which appears in early autumn, the red which appears with the coming of the first frost, and the brown tones of the fallen leaves. The Maple Leaf Tartan was made an official symbol of Canada by ministerial declaration on March 9, 2011.

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