Flag of Ontario

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UseCivil and state flag Small vexillological symbol or pictogram in black and white showing the different uses of the flag Small vexillological symbol or pictogram in black and white showing the different uses of the flag Reverse side is mirror image of obverse side Vertical hoist method of flag is unknown
AdoptedApril 14, 1965; 59 years ago (1965-04-14)[1]
DesignA red field with the flag of the Royal Union Flag in the canton defaced with the shield of the Ontario coat of arms.

The flag of Ontario is the provincial flag of Ontario, Canada. It is a defaced Red Ensign, with the Royal Union Flag in the canton and the Ontario shield of arms in the fly. The flag of Ontario was derived from the Canadian Red Ensign, which was used as a civil ensign and as a de facto flag of Canada from the late 19th century to 1965. It was adopted in a period when many Canadian provinces adopted their own flags.[2] May 21 is Ontario Flag Day.


The lesser arms of Ontario, which defaces the fly of the flag of Ontario.

The flag of Ontario is a defaced Red Ensign. The flag is an adaptation of the Canadian Red Ensign, which had been the de facto national flag of Canada from 1867 to 1965. The flag is a red field with the Royal Union Flag in the canton and the Ontario shield of arms in the fly. The coat of arms of Ontario had been previously granted by Royal Warrant of Queen Victoria in 1868. It features a green field with three gold maple leaves and above it, a white band with a red St. George's cross.

The specifications of the flag are 1:2. The shade of red in the flag is specified as "British Admiralty Colour Code No. T1144 for nylon worsted bunting and No. T818A for other bunting." The shield of the coat of arms is "centred in the half farthest from the staff".


Ontario flag, Inverhuron

Before 1965, the Canadian Red Ensign had served as the de facto national flag of Canada. It was flown at all military installations in Canada and overseas, embassies and consulates, outside the legislature and government buildings, at Royal Canadian Legion halls, and many private homes.

In 1964, the federal government, after a long and acrimonious debate, adopted the Maple Leaf flag as the flag of Canada. This decision was unpopular among some Canadians.[3] These included many Ontarians, particularly in rural areas that made up much of the political base of Premier John Robarts' Ontario Progressive Conservatives. Robarts, after coming up with the idea with his adviser, Richard Rohmer,[4] proposed that Ontario would have its own flag and that it would be a Red Ensign like the previous Canadian flag. It was traditional for jurisdictions around the world with a British system of government and way of life to adapt either a blue or red ensign as a flag, by adding a provincial coat of arms or similar symbol. It was originally intended to place the full Ontario coat of arms on the flag, but this was later reduced to only the shield.[5] Robarts felt the Ensign was an important symbol that reflected Ontario's heritage and the sacrifices made by Canadian troops under the Red Ensign. Premier Robarts stated "without conflict with the flag of Canada there is an honored place within our provincial boundaries for a provincial flag for Ontario. Here, in our province, there is a rich heritage of tradition and historic background which we do well to recognize".[5]

Small vexillological symbol or pictogram in black and white showing the different uses of the flag Variant of the Canadian Red Ensign used from 1957 to 1965; the design for the flag of Ontario was derived from this Canadian Red Ensign.

Canadians were exhausted by the long debate over the national flag[citation needed] and leaders of both the Ontario Liberal Party and the Ontario New Democratic Party supported the design for the proposed Ontario flag. The only opposition came from Sudbury Liberal Member of Provincial Parliament Elmer Sopha who was fervently opposed to the flag, arguing that it failed to reflect Ontario's diverse character and that it was "a flag of revenge" against the new national flag. However, he was joined by only one other MPP, Liberal Leo Troy, in voting against the flag, and it was passed by the Legislative Assembly on March 17. It went in effect on May 21, 1965.[6] The flag of Manitoba was adopted under similar circumstances.

On May 13, 2015, the Liberal MPP from Etobicoke Centre Yvan Baker put forward the Ontario Flag Day Act, 2015. This bill, which passed the house and received royal assent on June 4 in the same year, declares May 21 every year as Ontario Flag Day.[7]


The Toronto Daily Star supported the adoption of the flag stating "the Red Ensign was quite properly rejected as a flag for Canada because it was not an acceptable symbol of the nation as a whole. But it is much more suitable as a flag for Ontario".[8] A 2001, a survey conducted by the North American Vexillological Association (NAVA) placed the Ontario provincial flag 43rd in design quality out of the 72 Canadian provincial, U.S. state, and U.S. territory flags ranked.[9] The design of any flag, however, is entirely subjective and not easily compared according to some scholars such as Graham Bartram, chief vexillologist at the Flag Institute, who noted "There's often a fundamental misunderstanding of flags by politicians. Saying you like a flag because of its design is like saying you like your family because they are all handsome or beautiful. You love them because of who they are, unconditionally. Flags are a bit like that." This remark was made after a 2016 New Zealand flag referendum, in which New Zealanders voted to retain their existing flag, inclusive of the Union Jack.[10]

The incorporation of traditional or historical symbols is often an important element in flag design. Bruce Patterson notes the continued significance of the Red Ensign within the context of Canadian flag design, "while not disparaging the current National Flag...the Red Ensign is worth considering as a part of our history, and after fifty years an acknowledgement of this is certainly not a threat to the position of the National Flag."[11]

Redesign proposals[edit]

Some Commonwealth countries with the Union Jack in the canton have debated redesigning their national flags, such as in the case of the 2015–2016 New Zealand flag referendums.[12] There has been comparatively less debate around re-designing the Ontario flag, although some commentators have made calls to change the flag.[13] The justification is mainly around perceptions that the current flag centres colonialism and Old Stock Canadians.[14] Most recently, in July 2021, University of Western Ontario Professor Mano Majumdar launched a petition to redesign the flag, stating that "the best flags are distinct and inclusive. Ontario's is neither" and calling for "the Ontario legislature to replace the provincial flag with a more distinct and inclusive flag, chosen by democratic means."[15]

The petition also spurred support for the flag with one editorial encouraging pride in the flag as it was "a symbol of success."[16] It was emblematic of the origin of Ontario's most successful institutions of British inheritance: parliamentary democracy, law and freedom. The editorial argued, using the flags of Fiji or Tuvalu as an example, that the Union Jack is not exclusive to any ethnic group and represents Ontarians of all backgrounds. It further suggested that the Union Jack could also symbolise the attaining of freedom for an estimated 30-40,000 escaped slaves reaching British North America on the Underground Railroad.[17]

Other flags of Ontario[edit]

Flag Date Use Description
1975–present[note 1] Franco-Ontarian flag A vertical bicolour of green and white; charged with a white fleur-de-lys centred on the green portion and a trillium centred on the white portion
1981–present Standard of the lieutenant governor of Ontario The escutcheon of Arms of Ontario, crowned, on a blue field, surrounded by ten golden maple leaves.
Standard of the lieutenant governor of Ontario The Union Jack defaced in the centre with a white circle containing the arms of Ontario and surrounded by a wreath of maple leaves.
1959–1965 Standard of the lieutenant governor of Ontario The Canadian Red Ensign defaced in the lower fly by a white disk bearing the shield of the arms of Ontario surrounded by a wreath of green maple leaves.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The following date was when the flag was first flown. The flag was later adopted by the Francophone Assembly of Ontario in 1977, and was named as the official flag of the Franco-Ontarian community by provincial legislation in 2001. In 2020, the provincial legislation was amended, naming the Franco-Ontarian flag an official emblem of province.


  1. ^ Smith, Whitney (January 26, 2001). "Flag of Ontario". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved May 28, 2021.
  2. ^ Fraser, Alistair B. "Chapter IX: The Rise of Provincial Flags". The Flags of Canada. Retrieved 18 April 2022.
  3. ^ DePalma, Anthony (November 26, 1997). "Quebec Journal; To Some Canadians, the Maple Leaf Is a Red Flag". The New York Times. New York. Archived from the original on 2015-05-27. The red and white Maple Leaf is not a flag that normally stirs intense passions among Canadians. Schoolchildren do not pledge allegiance to it, and there is nothing old or particularly glorious about the Maple Leaf, designed by committee and adopted in 1965 as the result of yet another of Canada's many political compromises.
  4. ^ Rohmer, Richard (2004). Generally Speaking: The Memoirs of Major-General Richard Rohmer. Dundurn. pp. 275–317. ISBN 9781550025187. Retrieved August 29, 2022.
  5. ^ a b "Robarts' new flag". Toronto Daily Star. 10 March 1965. p. 3.
  6. ^ "Emblems and Symbols". Government of Ontario. Retrieved 2007-10-02.
  7. ^ "Ontario Flag Day Act, 2015". Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Retrieved 2021-05-21.
  8. ^ "A flag for Ontario". The Toronto Daily Star. 10 March 1965. p. 6.
  9. ^ "2001 State/Provincial Flag Survey". North American Vexillological Association. 10 June 2001. Archived from the original on February 23, 2015. Retrieved 11 March 2014.
  10. ^ "Which flags still include the union jack?". BBC News. 2016-03-24. Retrieved 2021-07-30.
  11. ^ Patterson, Bruce (1 Jul 2016). "The Red Ensign and the Maple Leaf: Canada's Two Flag Traditions" (PDF). Raven: A Journal of Vexillology. 23: 1–17. doi:10.5840/raven2016233. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2022-03-24.
  12. ^ "Flag referendum: Where does the $26 million go?". Stuff.co.nz. 17 Nov 2015. Retrieved 21 Mar 2022.
  13. ^ Paikin, Steve (May 20, 2015). "Is it time for a new flag for Ontario?". The Agenda. TVOntario. Retrieved February 15, 2022.
  14. ^ Hepburn, Bob (November 14, 2018). "Why does Ontario still fly outdated colonialist flag?". Toronto Star.
  15. ^ "Petition launched to change Ontario flag to be more inclusive, distinct". Global News. July 12, 2021. Retrieved February 15, 2022.
  16. ^ Hart, John Andrew (July 23, 2021). "Hart: Ontario's flag represents our history. Let's not change it". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved February 15, 2022.
  17. ^ "Underground Railroad". Retrieved 21 Mar 2022.

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