This month marks the 50th anniversary of Canada’s Maple Leaf flag.
Resolutions were passed by Parliament on Dec. 15, 1964 and two days later by the Senate, paving the way for a proclamation by Queen Elizabeth II, declaring the new flag officially adopted on Feb. 15, 1965.
Replacing the Canadian Red Ensign which had flown for nearly 100 years, the red and white flag with its stylized 11-point maple leaf, was designed by George F. G. Stanley.
The maple leaf has been used as a Canadian emblem since the 1700s and seemed a fitting choice when the committee formed by then-prime minister Lester B. Pearson made a formal recommendation after months of debate as to what best represented our country.
Esquimalt, too, has its symbols, no more so than in its coat-of-arms (Armorial Bearings) created in 1956 through research undertaken by heraldic authority, Lt.-Cmdr. Alan Beddoe.
Township council asked that the design reflect the story of Esquimalt, including reference to First Nations, the Royal Navy, the Puget Sound Agricultural Company (a subsidiary of the Hudson’s Bay Company) and the Royal Engineers.
The design is made up of many parts.
The central v-shaped section with blue and white wavy lines, symbolizes the ocean surrounded by yellow broom, depicted in gold.
The bird is an interpretation of the Naden raven, in tribute to our original inhabitants while the vair (fur) reflects the Hudson’s Bay Company. It is flanked by the golden anchor for the Royal Navy and the golden grenade for the Royal Engineers.
The crest, atop the helmet, is a tribute to the Royal Canadian Navy; with a sailor’s hand holding a trident to ward off our enemies. And the motto, “Es-whoy–malth” is an anglicized version of Lekwungen meaning “a place of gradually shoaling waters.”
On Jan. 23, 1957, Lt.-Gov. Frank M. Ross presented the coat-of-arms to the township.
More recently, in 2014, the digital version of the coat-of-arms was updated to conform with the original colour renderings and a new township flag created.
Last month, a new yardarm-style flagpole was erected at Municipal Hall, permitting the flying of three flags concurrently: the Canadian, provincial and township flag.
Greg Evans is an archivist with Esquimalt Municipal Archives.