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Current uses of the Red Ensign (Canada)

Last modified: 2007-02-10 by phil nelson
Keywords: friends of american | canadian-confederate friendship society | red ensign: canada |
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[Canada - 1957]

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A Canadian group called Friends of America took out an ad in the 29 April New York Times showing a pro-America rally they had. In the ad and on their website, one can see American, Canadian, and British flags flying at the rally, along with, prominently, a Canadian Red Ensign. Does this flag have any official usage anymore (aside from on Canadian currency)? If not, is it still used by individuals (perhaps more conservative individuals such as would be at a rally like this)?
Nathan Lamm, 29 April 2003

I'd point out an outfit (or maybe just an individual) I ran across once called the Canadian-Confederate Friendship Society. Its/his web site equates the "Canadian freedom flag" (the Red Ensign) with the Confederate Battle Flag, and sponsors/supports a "fly the ensign for freedom" campaign.
Andrew Rogers, 30 April 2003

While looking for (of all things) an image of a Welsh costume, I came across the official website of "the Canadian Heritage Alliance".

From reading their online literature, they appear to be of the far-right, anti-immigration, anti-gay type. In a few photos of their rallies and protest, they can be seen flying Canadian Red Ensign:

I guess their use of an obsolete flag (like others) is their attempt at inciting a longing for "the good old days" and they might see the adoption of a strictly Canadian flag as bowing down to multiculturalism pressure.

I do wonder how their flag flying habit are perceived by the Canadian public at large, do they get the point or do most of them go "that Ontario flag look funny" ?
Marc Pasquin, 10 March 2004

On they write, "Canadians have adopted the Canadian Red Ensign to show they do NOT support the diminishment of freedom and speech in Canada. Purchase a Red Ensign Flag and fly it proud to show you support Freedom in Canada!"

Elsewhere on their site, in their "Heritage and Culture Directory," they have a link to this page: which includes an explanation of the symbolism they ascribe to the Red Ensign.
Andrew S. Rogers, 10 March 2004

No-one took him up on this, but I think it is a valid question. My experience has evolved through my nearly 30 years in Canada - in the mid 1970's I was in Kingston, eastern Ontario, an area of sizeable loyalist support (i.e. descendants of people loyal to Britain who fled the American colonies when they revolted), and remember many people still fondly recalled the red ensign as the national flag. Remember, though, that was only a decade after the maple leaf was adopted, so it still had some political baggage - the area was strongly Conservative, and although the maple leaf was not introduced by Pierre Trudeau, many people saw it as a Liberal creation, and revered the red ensign as a symbol of the what the Conservatives would have kept. However, the similarity in design between the red ensign and the Ontario provincial flag meant that most people didn't notice which one was being used! In the early 80's I lived in Calgary, Alberta. The maple leaf was widely used there, and the only group that I encountered that used the red ensign were veterans of the wars. There was some resentment of "the east" (read 'Ontario') in Alberta, and the maple leaf flag was sometimes pointed out as yet another example of Ontario's control on all things (maples don't thrive very well in Alberta). In Nova Scotia - the red ensign is sometimes described as the "true Canadian flag" by people who fought under it in WW2, but by and large it is forgotten. I think I have only seen it flying once in the past 8 years or so, although it can be found hanging in legion halls. I set a quiz for some of my students last year and included a flag identification round - none of them recognised the red ensign, and one of them commented she didn't know that Canada ever had a different flag. It might be interesting if Dean McGee or David Kendall (or others) could comment on regional preferences elsewhere in Canada.
Rob Raeside, 15 March 2004

I've mostly seen the Red Ensign in the context of historical displays, like Remembrance Day (11 Nov.) observances. There was one old apartment building in Vancouver that flew a /Blue/ Ensign well into the 90's (I think the building is gone now). I wouldn't be surprised if the building was either an official veterans' home, or at least populated by a lot of Vets (it was near the hospital in an area with many care homes).

On the CBC's "Snakes and Ladders" (fictional story set in the Canadian Parliament) there are a Canadian /Blue/ Ensign crossed with a White Ensign in the hallway of the House of Commons (war memorial display?).

I didn't think there were a significant number of conservative types who would favour a return to the Red Ensign, but I dug this up:

On June 20,2003 I wrote:

When a Vancouver newspaper saw these designs, they ran a poll: "Would you like to see the flag changed?" Results, no change 34%; go back to the Red Ensign 18%; Sea to Sea 15%; Sovereignty Association 10%; Young Canada 3%. To my math, that leaves about 20% who came up with other ideas.

So apparently in 1992, almost one in five BCers would return to the Red Ensign. (an unscientific poll, surely)
Dean McGee, 16 March 2004

Living in Manitoba, it's hard to tell if it's the Red Ensign or the Provincial flag that's flying. There is the main war memorial in the city (Winnipeg) across the street from our legislature that has the national flag flanked by the provincial flag and the Red Ensign flag (hard to tell which one's which!)

Small c conservative as opposed to large C conservative. At least in the last 30 years or so. Diefenbaker is rolling in his grave, to be sure.

I personally know more people who would favour a union with the United States than people who would favour a return to the Red Ensign flag, to give you an idea. (I can combine the total on one hand and have fingers left over, too.)
David Kendall, 16 March 2004

Now for a Western Canadian view here in Victoria.. The Red Ensign the one with the green leaves in the crest; not the Pearson special or the current Liberial Party flag as many call it. You will find the Red Ensign in all Legions; the Red Ensign as it was the flag of Canada that Canadians fought under in World War I and World War II. To many it is still the real Canadian flag and to many the only one that is recognised. I will admit the current design is good as a design but how it was forced to be used and its lack of history leaves the Red Ensign the only Canadian Flag that is truly respected and not merely a political Liberal party flag as the current one represents.

Going by my past 40 years here of those that care ; I would say over 60% only recognise the Red Ensign as the flag of Canada..
Mrs. Charla Mason, 16 March 2004