Origins and design
The flag is horizontally symmetric and therefore the obverse and reverse sides appear identical. The width of the Maple Leaf flag is twice the height. The white field is a Canadian pale (a square central band in a vertical triband flag, named after this flag); each bordering red field is exactly half its size and it bears a stylized red maple leaf at its centre. In heraldic terminology, the flag's blazon as outlined on the original royal proclamation is "gules on a Canadian pale argent a maple leaf of the first".
The maple leaf has been used as a Canadian emblem since the 18th century. It was first used as a national symbol in 1868 when it appeared on the coat of arms of both Ontario and Quebec. In 1867, Alexander Muir composed the patriotic song "The Maple Leaf Forever", which became an unofficial anthem in English-speaking Canada. The maple leaf was later added to the Canadian coat of arms in 1921. From 1876 until 1901, the leaf appeared on all Canadian coins and remained on the penny after 1901. The use of the maple leaf by the as a regimental symbol extended back to 1860. During the First World War and Second World War, badges of the Canadian Forces were often based on a maple leaf design. The maple leaf would eventually adorn the tombstones of Canadian military graves.
By proclaiming the Royal Arms of Canada, King George V in 1921 made red and white the official colours of Canada; the former came from Saint George's Cross and the latter from the French royal emblem since King Charles VII. These colours became "entrenched" as the national colours of Canada upon the proclamation of the Royal Standard of Canada (the Canadian monarch's personal flag) in 1962. The Department of Canadian Heritage has listed the various colour shades for printing ink that should be used when reproducing the Canadian flag; these include:
- FIP red: General Printing Ink, No. 0-712;
- Inmont Canada Ltd., No. 4T51577;
- Monarch Inks, No. 62539/0
- Rieger Inks, No. 25564
- Sinclair and Valentine, No. RL163929/0.
The number of points on the leaf has no special significance; the number and arrangement of the points were chosen after wind tunnel tests showed the current design to be the least blurry of the various designs when tested under high wind conditions.
The image of the maple leaf used on the flag was designed by
Jacques Saint-Cyr; Jack Cook claims that this stylized eleven-point maple leaf was lifted from a copyrighted design owned by a Canadian craft shop in Ottawa. The colours 0/100/100/0 in the CMYK process, PMS 032 (flag red 100%), or PMS 485 (used for screens) in the Pantone colour specifier can be used when reproducing the flag. For the Federal Identity Program, the red tone of the standard flag has an RGB value of 255–0–0 (web hexadecimal #FF0000). In 1984, the National Flag of Canada Manufacturing Standards Act was passed to unify the manufacturing standards for flags used in both indoor and outdoor conditions.