February 15, 2011

National Flag of Canada Day

Today commemorates the adoption of Canada's familiar maple-leaf flag in 1965. If you live in Canada, expect to see lots of flags flying today!

It seems that a maple leaf was chosen for the national flag to represent nature and the environment. This Canadian symbol had been used in various ways since the 1700s, and the former Canadian flag was red with the British “Union Jack” design in one corner. So the modern red-and-white maple-leaf flag grew out of the symbols and colors that had long been used.

Apparently some people assume that the number of points on the leaf (11) symbolizes something—perhaps the ten provinces of Canada plus one point for the territories. However, the number of points has no symbolic meaning. The stylized maple leaf was chosen over other maple-leaf designs after wind-tunnel tests—even in brisk winds, people can see that the red object in the center of the flag is a leaf.

Do You Know...?
Let's see how many of the provinces and major cities of Canada you've heard of...

British Columbia – This is the province where the 2010 Winter Olympics were held in and around Vancouver. The capital city is a charming European-styled town called Victoria, which is on an island just off the coast of B.C.

Alberta – This province is known for beautiful Rocky Mountain vistas and wide plains and ranches. Calgary is the largest city, and Edmonton is the capital.

Quebec – This is the French-speaking province of Canada. Montreal is a skyscraper-filled city that once hosted the Olympics, and Quebec City is the charming old capital.

The province of Nova Scotia is a peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean. Its name means “New Scotland.” The province of New Brunswick rests between French-speaking Quebec and English-speaking Nova Scotia—and, appropriately enough, it is the only bilingual province. The smallest province is Prince Edward Island, home of the fictional character Anne of Green Gables (because it is home of Anne's author, Lucy Maud Montgomery).

The province of Newfoundland and Labrador is made up of the island of Newfoundland and mainland Labrador. It is arctic and sub-arctic, but the ocean modifies the climate, making it warmer and wetter.

The province of Ontario lies between the Great Lakes and Hudson Bay. The capital of Canada, Ottawa, is located in this province, but it isn't the capital of the province. Toronto is Ontario's capital city and the largest city in Canada. If you include the greater metropolitan area that surrounds Toronto, one quarter of the people who live in the entire nation live in there!

Manitoba has over 110,000 lakes a lot of agriculture. Its capital, Winnipeg, is also its largest city. Saskatchewan is the last province of Canada. Like Alberta, it is landlocked (it doesn't touch an ocean).

The Yukon, Nunavut, and the Northwest Territories are all arctic territories of Canada. There is a lot of land up there, a lot of snow and ice and forests, but not a lot of people. However, there was a time when people poured into the Yukon—during the Klondike Gold Rush. Each of these territories has multiple official languages. All of them include French and English, but Nunavut also makes Inuinnaqtun and Inuktitut official languages, and the Northwest Territories includes nine different Native-American languages on the “official” list!

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