The Making of the Canadian flag - Anthems and Symbols - Canadian Identity
The Making of the Canadian flag - Anthems and Symbols - Canadian Identity
The Making of the Canadian flag - Anthems and Symbols - Canadian Identity

The Making of the Canadian flag

On a Friday afternoon in the late autumn of 1964, an urgent request came from Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson to the desk of Ken Donovan. Mr. Donovan was then an assistant purchasing director with the Canadian Government Exhibition Commission, which later became a part of the Department of Supply and Services.

The Prime Minister wanted prototypes of the proposals for the new flag to take to his new residence at Harrington Lake the next morning. The three proposals on the table included the single maple leaf design.

The only design samples in existence were drawings on paper. So Mr. Donovan and his team of designers managed to do the impossible. The flag prototypes were assembled in just a few hours. Graphic artists and silk screeners Jean Desrosiers and John Williams were called in to work on the Friday evening. Since no seamstress could be found, the flags were stitched together by the young Joan O'Malley, daughter of Ken Donovan.

During a ceremony celebrating the 30th anniversary of the flag, Joan O'Malley recounted her experience:

"I really didn't realize what I was getting into when I got that phone call from my father in 1964. I was just doing my father a favour; not participating in history. Let me tell you, I don't think of myself as the Betsy Ross type.

And sewing the flag was not easy. I was no professional - I had just sewed some of my clothes before this. My sewing machine wasn't made for such heavy material. But eventually, the flag came together.

At the time, it wasn't the best way I could think of to spend a Friday night. In fact, my father was more excited than I was about the whole thing - he was the one who got to deliver the prototypes to Mr. Pearson's house.

Even though I may not have realized the importance of what I had been asked to do then, I felt good about sewing the prototypes for the flag. It was certainly not a request people got every day."

Excerpts from speaking notes on a speech delivered by Ranald Quail, Deputy Minister, Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Canadian flag.