Canada Day marks the joining of the British North American colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Province of Canada into a federation of four provinces (the Province of Canada being divided, in the process, into Ontario and Quebec) on July 1, 1867.
Canada became a kingdom in its own right on that date, but the British Parliament kept limited rights of political control over the new country. These were shed by stages over the years until the last vestiges were surrendered in 1982 when, under Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the Constitution Act patriated the Canadian constitution.
At first the Canadian Red Ensign (shown on the left, pronounced ens’n) was unofficially flown on Canadian ships and, following approval by the British Admiralty in 1892, authorized for use on government buildings here and abroad. It was the national flag which Canadian troops fought under during World War II. A 1957 version of that flag flies at my home in Victoria BC this morning.
In 1925, Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King established a committee to design a truly Canadian flag but it took until 1965, following the Great Flag Debate, that parliament under Lester B. Pearson, against opposition led by former Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, adopted the Maple Leaf (l’Unifolié, “the one-leafed” in French) as our official flag (illustrated at the top).