Nova Scotia, since 1858
Nova Scotia has the oldest provincial flag in Canada (older than the country itself!) but it will only become official this year, thanks largely to the efforts of a grade 5 student. 11-year-old Regan Parker discovered during a research project that the flag of Nova Scotia had never been recognized by the provincial legislature. She brought the oversight up to her local MLA and he introduced the Provincial Flag Act, which passed its Third Reading this past Thursday.
The flag is a banner of Nova Scotia’s coat of arms, first granted all the way back in 1625. Other provinces have heraldic banners for flags, but Nova Scotia is the only one that never bothered with any kind of official authorization. Instead the public just kind of started using it on their own, beginning with the Nova Scotia Philanthropic Society in 1858 and continuing more or less uninterrupted to the present day.
Canada (proposed, 1895)
“The advocates of a maple leaf do not seem to recognize that such an emblem only symbolizes weakness and decay; they regard Summer beauty as everything, and overlook the fact that a floral decoration is not at home “in the battle and the breeze,” that storm and tempest so familiar to us seafaring people is not the place for a fragile leaf or wreath of leaves.”
— “NEW FLAG FOR THE DOMINION.; CANADA WISHES TO HAVE A DISTINCTIVE EMBLEM”, The New York Times, 13 August 1895, p. 4.
Originally from the Halifax Morning Herald, this 19th century article isn’t just opposed to the the maple leaf as a national symbol, but also the 1868 red ensign (“not distinguishable at any distance”), and the beaver (“belongs to the same family (rodents) as rats and mice”).
Instead, it endorses a proposal by Sir Sandford Fleming, a.k.a. the time zone guy. He wanted the Canadian flag to feature a seven-pointed north star, with each point representing a province. If this idea sounds familiar, it’s because the Australians used the exact same symbol on their flag only a few years later.
The idea of a north star flag popped up again in the 1930s but it didn’t get much traction. By that time the maple leaf was firmly ensconced as Canada’s national symbol, objections of seafaring people notwithstanding.
The Canadian flag is simple. Iconic. Sewn to countless backpacks for grand adventures. But our provincial flags? Cluttered messes sewn to nothing by no one going nowhere. Over the next few weeks Steve Murray will be redesigning the flags and you’ll get to vote as to whether the old flag stays or goes!