Canadian Culture: 7 Symbols Express Our National Identity

Canada

Canada has many important symbols — objects, events, and people that have special meaning. Together they help explain what it means to be Canadian and express our national identity. Important Canadian symbols appear throughout this booklet.

The Canadian Crown

The Crown has been a symbol of the state in Canada for 400 years. Canada has been a constitutional monarchy in its own right since Confederation in 1867 during Queen Victoria’s reign. Queen Elizabeth II who has been Queen of Canada since 1952, marked her Golden Jubilee in 2002 and celebrates her Diamond Jubilee (60 years as Sovereign) in 2012. The Crown is a symbol of government, including Parliament, the legislatures, the courts, police services and the Canadian Forces.

Flags in Canada

A new Canadian flag was raised for the first time in 1965. The red-white-red pattern comes from the flag of the Royal Military College, Kingston, founded in 1876. Red and white had been colors of France and England since the Middle Ages and the national colors of Canada since 1921. The Union Jack is our official Royal Flag. The Canadian Red Ensign served as the Canadian flag for about 100 years. The provinces and territories also have flags that embody their distinct traditions.

The Maple Leaf

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The maple leaf is Canada’s best-known symbol. Maple leaves were adopted as a symbol by French-Canadians in the 1700s, have appeared on Canadian uniforms and insignia since the 1850s, and are carved into the headstones of our fallen soldiers buried overseas and in Canada.

The Fleur-de-lys

It is said that the lily flower (“fleur-de-lys”) was adopted by the French king in the year 496. It became the symbol of French royalty for more than a thousand years, including the colony of New France. Revived at Confederation, the fleur-de-lys was included in the Canadian Red Ensign. In 1948 Quebec adopted its own flag, based on the Cross and the fleur-de-lys.

Coat of Arms and Motto

As an expression of national pride after the First World War, Canada adopted an official coat of arms and a national motto, A Mari Usque Ad Mare, which in Latin means “from sea to sea.” The arms contain symbols of England, France, Scotland and Ireland as well as red maple leaves. Today the arms can be seen on dollar bills, government documents and public buildings.

Parliament Buildings

The towers, arches, sculptures and stained glass of the Parliament Buildings embody the French, English and Aboriginal traditions and the Gothic Revival architecture popular in the time of Queen Victoria. The buildings were completed in the 1860s. The Centre Block was destroyed by an accidental fire in 1916 and rebuilt in 1922. The Library is the only part of the original building remaining. The Peace Tower was completed in 1927 in memory of the First World War. The Memorial Chamber within the Tower contains the Books of Remembrance in which are written the names of soldiers, sailors and airmen who died serving Canada in wars or while on duty.

The Victoria Cross

The Victoria Cross (V.C.) is the highest honor available to Canadians and is awarded for the most conspicuous bravery, a daring or pre-eminent act of valor or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy.

By: Discover Canada

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