Canadian pale

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In heraldry and vexillology, a Canadian pale is a centre band of a vertical triband flag (a pale in heraldry) that covers half the length of a flag, rather than a third as in most triband designs. This allows more space to display a central image (common charge). The name was suggested by George Stanley, and first used by Elizabeth II of Canada proclaiming the new Canadian flag on 28 January 1965.[1] Properly, the term should only apply to Canadian flags, though in general use the term is also used to describe non-Canadian flags that have similar proportions.[2]

The classic Canadian pale is a square central panel occupying half of a flag with 1:2 proportions. However, vexillological usage applies it to any central band that is half the width of the flag, even if this renders it non-square. The term Canadian pale is also used for flags which do not originate in Canada. The 3:5 proposed flag of Taiwan and the 7:11 flag of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are both described as having a Canadian pale.

The Canadian pale is a popular feature of sub-national and municipal flags from Canada developed after 1965. A few examples can be found in the flag of the Northwest Territories and the Flag of Yukon, and of the cities of Edmonton, Alberta; Cornwall, Ontario, Hamilton, Ontario and Burlington, Ontario. The term is sometimes used in an even looser sense to refer to any flag with a larger central panel, irrespective of whether or not it covers half the flag. By this looser description, the flag of Norfolk Island (stripes in a ratio of 7:9:7) and the flag of Iowa (ratio legally undefined, but usually the central stripe is less than twice that of the outer stripes) are sometimes considered to have a Canadian pale.

By analogy, any flag which has a central horizontal stripe that is half the height of the flag is sometimes said to have a Spanish fess.


In coats of arms, and heraldry in general, a 'Canadian pale' is what might well be referred to in South African heraldry as a 'broad pale' as its width is half that of the shield on which it is shown as opposed to the ordinary pale's third to a quarter. They are most commonly used in Canadian heraldry.

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  1. ^ Kibbey, Stephen, ed. (September 2006). "Did you know... ?" (PDF). The Seaxe: Newsletter of the Middlesex Heraldry Society. Ealing, London: Middlesex Heraldry Society (52): 12. Retrieved December 26, 2011. For a fuller account see 'A King in Canada' by Sir Conrad Swan, pp.242-247.
  2. ^ Nelson, Phil (January 2, 2010). "Dictionary of Vexillology". Flags Of The World website. CANADIAN PALE. Retrieved December 26, 2011.