Wednesday, February 15, 2012

National Flag of Canada Day

Flag Day, officially named National Flag of Canada Day, is observed annually on February 15, commemorating the inauguration of the Flag of Canada on that date in 1965. The day is marked by flying the flag, occasional public ceremonies, and educational programs in schools. It is not a public holiday, although there has been discussion about creating one.

The Maple Leaf flag replaced the Canadian Red Ensign, which had been, with various successive alterations, in conventional use as a Canadian national flag since 1868. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Lester Pearson, resolutions recommending the new flag were passed by the House of Commons on December 15, 1964, and by the Senate two days later. The flag was proclaimed by Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, on January 28, 1965, and took effect "upon, from and after" February 15.

National Flag of Canada Day was instituted in 1996 by an Order in Council from Governor General Roméo LeBlanc, on the initiative of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. At the first Flag Day ceremony in Hull, Quebec, Chrétien was confronted by demonstrators against proposed cuts to the unemployment insurance system, and while walking through the crowd grabbed by the neck and pushed aside a protester who had approached him. In 2010, on the flag's 45th anniversary, federal ceremonies were held to mark Flag Day at Winnipeg, St. John's, Ottawa, and at Whistler and Vancouver in conjunction with the XXI Olympic Winter Games. In 2011, Prime Minister Stephen Harper observed Flag Day by presenting two citizens, whose work honored the military, with Canadian flags which had flown over the Peace Tower. It was announced as inaugurating an annual recognition of patriotism.

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