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You Know You’re in Canada When…

image001Canada is a unique place with a cultural flavour all its own and a history that spans hundreds of years. The second largest country in the world, the vast majority of the population lives in southern Ontario—including the Niagara region—but even though Niagara Falls and the surrounding area are remarkably close to the American border, Niagara has maintained a very distinct personality from our neighbors to the south.

Whether you’re staying in Niagara Falls for the first time, or you’ve been making the trek annually for years, there comes a point when it’s clear you aren’t in the U.S. anymore. From impressive and unyielding politeness to the Terry Fox Run, here are some ways you can tell you’ve arrived in the land of the Canucks.

The Terry Fox Run

Every fall, the vast majority of Canadian students participate in the Terry Fox Run — an all-volunteer-led, non-corporate fundraiser and run that raises money for cancer research. Named after Terry Fox and his eponymous foundation, Terry was just 18 when he was diagnosed with cancer and had his right leg amputated. Moved by the suffering of the cancer patients around him, he pledged to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research. Called the Marathon of Hope, Terry — running on a prosthetic leg — ran an average of 26 miles a day once he started his run across the country. After 143 days, increased attention, and 3,339 miles, Terry had to stop short of his goal, because cancer had reappeared in his lungs. He died at the age of 22 in 1981, and his foundation and the Terry Fox Run have garnered over $650 million dollars since he first ran.

The Manners

Canadians have a reputation for being some of the nicest people on the planet, and for good reason. We say, “please” and “thank you” at every appropriate opportunity, and we even say “sorry” at inappropriate ones — like when someone else bumps into us. We hold doors for each other, and if we spy a tourist with a puzzled look on their face, we’ll ask if we can be of any help. If you drop something on the street, we’ll pick it up and run after you to return it, and angry horn honking in traffic hardly ever happens.

The Food

image003Canadian food is oftentimes similar or identical to what you’ll find in other places, but there are some notable exceptions. And while these exceptions are starting to show up across the border here and there, we think they taste best in Canada. Here are some examples of food that is distinctly Canadian:

  • Ketchup-flavored potato chips
  • Poutine — French fries covered in fresh cheese curds and gravy
  • Beaver tails — a deep-fried pastry with sweet toppings
  • Butter tarts — a sweet, buttery dessert tart with nuts or raisins

So, enjoy the Canadian culture when you visit Niagara, where people are nicer, the accent is charming, and the French fries are covered in gravy.

A Closer Look at the Niagara College Teaching Winery

image001If you love Canadian wine, especially the wine that comes from the Niagara area, then you’re probably familiar with the region’s lush vineyards, award-winning wineries, welcoming tasting rooms, and internationally acclaimed wines.

But if you’ve never taken a gander at the Teaching Winery that has been a part of Niagara College for 15 years, there is more for you to uncover and learn. The next time you head up to Niagara, be sure to book a tour or two at the Niagara College Teaching Winery for an inside look at what learning the trade might entail.

Located in Niagara-on-the-Lake, the Niagara College Teaching Winery is Canada’s only fully licensed teaching winery. An important center of wine education for the region and country, the students in the school learn the art, craft, and trade of winemaking in general and as it applies to winemaking that is specific to the Niagara Peninsula, which is that seemingly magical 30-mile-long plain with a terroir comparable to France’s Languedoc-Roussillon that produces some of Canada’s — and the world’s — finest wines. Started at Niagara College in 2000, the Winery and Viticulture program has its own vineyards that cover 38 acres.

The vineyards and winemaking facilities ensure that students at the school don’t just learn about winemaking from books and lectures, they actually experience what it’s like to be winemakers by tending the land and doing the work of producing the teaching winery’s many award-winning wines. They do all this learning and work under the tutelage of celebrated winemaker Terence Van Rooyen.

It’s within this environment and the college’s commitment to winemaking in the region that tours to the public are offered. Here are a handful of ways of you experience the Niagara College Teaching Winery without becoming a student:

  • image003Public Tours. Tour the Teaching Winery’s impressive and cutting-edge facility with an experienced guide. Learn the history, philosophy, and practices of the school’s winemaking. This tour concludes with a tasting of three of the school’s VQA wines.
  • Niagara Segway Tours. Roll about the college’s vineyards on a Segway to experience the growing spaces in a brand, new way.
  • Sensory Lesson. Bone up on your wine-tasting skills and knowledge with a guide who will lead you through a sampling of three VQA wines at the college’s Wine Visitor and Education Tasting Bar. Chocolate lovers can add a chocolate pairing for just $3.00 more.
  • Teaching Winery Tour and Tasting. An hour-long tour, you’ll first head out to the vineyards where a discussion of the growing season, local terroir, and wine industry will ensue. From there, you’ll head into the winemaking facility to discuss the school’s winemaking process. Last, you’ll enjoy a tasting of three of the Teaching Winery’s VQA wines.
  • Journey of the Senses. The most in-depth tour available, this tour follows the same general format as the Teaching Winery Tour and Tasting, but it goes into greater detail and includes more shop talk.

For an insider’s look at winemaking education, spend some time touring the fantastic Niagara College Teaching Winery, and gain a bit more insight into what makes Niagara Peninsula wines so exceptional.

Free Fun in Niagara Falls

image001One of the most popular vacation destinations in the world, Niagara Falls attracts everyone from starry-eyed lovers enjoying a romantic getaway to parents with young children on their first real family vacation. Regardless of why you’re visiting or who you’re visiting with, taking in Niagara’s attractions doesn’t have to pull your purse strings too tight. A bevy of fun, free things to do awaits you if you’re looking for ways to save on a trip to Niagara Falls.

Niagara Falls

Of course, the best, fun, free thing to do in Niagara Falls is to witness the majesty and power of the waterfalls first hand. So, be sure to walk along the gorge beside and above the Falls, which you can do for free. In almost any weather and at any time of year, being that close to one of nature’s most impressive attractions is an unforgettable experience. Be sure to also explore the Niagara Falls at night. The illumination and fireworks provide a totally different look and feel, and the extra pizzazz at night is just as free as the unadorned beauty in the day.

Niagara Glen

image003For nature lovers, there are few locations right around the Falls that are as beautiful and fecund as Niagara Glen. Diverse bird, plant, and tree species abound throughout the Glen making it perfect for an afternoon or day hike. Bouldering has become a popular activity in the Glen as well, and while a good pair of climbing shoes will certainly come in handy, it’s just as free as the hiking is. For a bit of friendly competition, you can also use Niagara Glen for geocaching — a scavenger hunt/ treasure hunting game that uses devices with GPS, like most smartphones or tablets, to navigate specific coordinates in order to find a container that’s been hidden at that location.

Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens

The Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens is 40 hectares of perennials, flowering shrubs, dwarf conifers, herbs, ornamental trees and more. Display beds are changed three or four times a year to reflect the changing seasons. The rose garden has over 2,400 roses in bloom at peak season, and there’s also a remarkable grass display. The Botanical Gardens is also home to the Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory, and while it isn’t free, it does boast a unique butterfly garden at its entrance that has been planted with plants like Purple cornflower, Butterfly Bush, and milkweed to attract native butterflies.

The McFarland House

Built by a Scottish immigrant at the start of the 19th century, the McFarland House was a family home for over 150 years, although it saw some action during the War of 1812 when it was used as a hospital by both the American and British armies. A gun battery was also placed on the property during the war in order to protect the Niagara River, and the British used the property as a launch point for the attack and capture of Fort Niagara on December 18, 1813. When the last member of the McFarland family died in 1959, the Niagara Parks Commission gained control of the estate and set to restoring it. Set upon a large and beautiful property that includes a garden similar to what would have been kept in the 19th century, you can visit the home and are around it for free and take a guided tour.

While not everything in Niagara Falls can be enjoyed for free, thanks to the area’s rich heritage and beautiful landscape there is much that can be.

Come to Niagara for These 5 Great Festivals

image001The Niagara region is home to 12 distinct communities, hundreds of farms and vineyards, and a thirst for celebrations. When it comes to festivals, the area boasts a wealth of opportunities all year long. Whether you’re looking for folk arts, food, theater, or film, these five festivals are just five more reasons to plan a trip to Niagara.

1. Niagara Folk Arts Festival

A multicultural celebration that features music, food, exhibitions, art, and dance from around the world, The Niagara Folk Arts Festival is Canada’s oldest continually ongoing heritage festival. Held at various locations throughout the Niagara region, each May brings with it another opportunity to learn about and gain a greater appreciation of the vast variety of people and cultures that make Canada the diverse nation what it is.

2. Shaw Festival

A festival that celebrates theater in the spirit of provocative Irish playwright, Bernard Shaw, the Shaw Festival takes place in Niagara-on-the-Lake. For the theater lover, there are few places shy of London and New York to get such a concentrated theater fix. One of the best parts of the festival is that each production takes place in one of five theaters that are all within walking distance of one another. Plays that will be performed during the 2015 season include:

  • “Peter and the Starcatcher”
  • “Top Girls”
  • “Pygmalion”
  • “The Next Whiskey Bar”
  • And more!

3. Winter Festival of Lights

image003The Ontario Power Generation Winter Festival of Lights will run from November 14, 2015 through January 11, 2016. One of the most impressive light displays in the entire world, the Winter Festival of Lights includes over 3 million lights and over 125 illuminated holiday displays. Over a million people enjoy this festival each and every year, making it one of the most popular events in all of North America.

4. Niagara Integrated Film Festival

A film festival that could only take place in Niagara, the Niagara Integrated Film Festival, or NIFF, celebrates the art of the cinema by combining the finest films from around the world with food from some of Canada’s most famous chefs and wines from its award-winning wineries. Some of the festival’s programming includes:

  • Film Feast. This bus tour of some of the Niagara region’s best wineries includes hors d’oeuvres and a sampling of fine short films.
  • The World’s Smallest Film Festival. This competition is for short films shot on a mobile device.
  • Filmalicious. Guests at Filmalicious enjoy an evening at a winery where an award-winning chef cooks a fabulous dinner, accented with excellent wines, after which the guests enjoy a film in the vineyard.

5. Niagara Food Festival

Running the first full weekend in September, this fall will find the Niagara Food Festival enjoying its 22nd year. All types of foods make their way into this festival, from the offerings of local restaurants to the work of celebrity chefs. Live demonstrations are offered throughout the weekend, and admission is free. There is also live entertainment and plenty to keep young and old satisfied, no matter their taste.

Niagara isn’t just a land of mighty waters; these festivals and others like them make the Niagara region a land of mighty cultural events as well.

4 Keys to Enjoying Niagara Falls on a Budget

image001A vacation to Niagara Falls can please even the most curmudgeonly of travelers. The beauty of the place combined with the high quality of its entertainment, dining, and hotel options make for a memorable and pleasurable escape — especially because Niagara Falls is so easy to enjoy on a budget. Whether you’re a family of six or just a thrifty vacationer, here are four keys to having a great time in Niagara Falls if you’re looking to save some money.

1. Take Advantage of the Off-Season

The most popular time to visit Niagara Falls — from June through August — is also the most expensive time to visit. While the weather is postcard perfect and every one of the region’s sights and attractions are in full swing, for the traveler hoping to save some valuable scratch, the peak season should be avoided. Instead, head out a little earlier in the year. From discounted attractions to drastically lowered hotel rates, visit Niagara during late winter, early spring and fall, and you’ll save plenty.

2. Pack Your Lunch (Etc.)

image003While there’s little that’s glamorous about it, especially when you’re on vacation, packing your lunch is a great way to save as much as $15 per person each day you do it. Book a hotel room that includes at least a small refrigerator, if not a kitchenette, and hit one of the local grocery stores where you can stock up on supplies that will yield tasty midday meals.

Also, be sure to make use of in-room and hotel lobby coffee for all your caffeine needs. By avoiding paying for lunch and coffee when you’re out and about, you’ll save yourself precious funds to spend on dinner, wine, and the like.

3. Hit the Freebies

Niagara Falls is filled with a number of fun and free attractions — including the waterfalls that are its namesake — that are sure to please everyone in your party. Some of the more notable include:

  • Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens. This 99-acre park is filled with lovely perennials and flowering plants. Regardless of the time of year, the immaculately manicured space makes for an ideal and picturesque walk, and on sunny days, it’s ideal for a picnic or a leisurely outdoor game of chess.
  • The Floral Clock. Just north of the Botanical Gardens sits one of the world’s largest floral clocks. 40 feet in diameter, the floral face is changed twice each season.
  • Niagara Glen Nature Centre. This nature reserve and visitor’s center offers tourists excellent hiking and a wealth of information about the geography and topography of the Niagara area.
  • The Niagara Parkway. Ideal to bike, walk, or drive, the Niagara Parkway winds between Fort Erie and Niagara-on-the-lake for 35 picturesque miles. Winston Churchill declared the parkway made for the prettiest Sunday afternoon drive in the world.

4. Splurge Wisely

Of course, even the thriftiest travelers to Niagara Falls would be wise to splurge on a few attractions or events. The trick is choosing what will be the most satisfying experience for the money. From magic shows and musical dinner theater to world-class restaurants with extensive and one-of-a-kind wine lists, assess your priorities before you head to Niagara, and when the time comes, drop your well-earned dollars on something that will make your spirit sing.

There are countless reasons Niagara Falls is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and enjoying it on a budget is one of them.

Getting Engaged? 4 Reasons to Pop the Question in Niagara Falls

image001Long known as the Honeymoon Capital of the World, Niagara Falls exudes a romance and charm that still attracts lovers from all over when the wedding is over, and it’s time to celebrate and recover from the work and stress of getting hitched. For the couple about to step into the realm of engagement, finding the perfect spot and story is an incredibly important of the process of getting engaged.

Since Niagara Falls is already synonymous with romance and the hope of wedded bliss, why not head there to get engaged? From its wealth of stunning and easy-to-reach vineyards to its excellent variety of top-notch hotels that can accommodate almost any budget, here are four reasons to pop the question in Niagara Falls.

1. The History

There is nowhere on earth with more positive marital associations than Niagara Falls. Even Superman and Lois Lane fell in love there! By declaring your intention to love one another in sickness and in health among Niagara’s happy throng, you’re joining a long and storied tradition that’s over 125 years old and has served more happy couples than anyone will ever know. What’s more romantic than that?

2. All Those Vineyards

One of the keys to a successful engagement story is making sure it takes place in an appropriately dreamy setting. While dropping to one knee as you’re both marveling over the powerful waters’ thunderous cascade definitely makes for an appropriate amount of engagement drama, the Niagara region’s many picturesque vineyards could serve as a fitting backdrop for the proposal as well. Whether you seal the deal among rows of luscious grapes or over a glass of delicious Niagara Falls icewine in a rustic tasting room, a Niagara vineyard is an ideal place to agree to say, “I do.” Afterward, you’ll also be able to serve wine from the vineyard of your engagement at your wedding reception.

3. The Restaurants

image003Another engagement-worthy option that the Niagara area has in spades is its many high-profile and award-winning restaurants.   Canadian cuisine and dining has recently seen its stock rise considerably as foodies and critics from around the world continue to find its fare among the finest in any country. With a hearty emphasis on fresh, local ingredients, the finest restaurants in Niagara will more than satisfy your palettes as you enter into the period of engagement that will eventually join your lives together. Choose a restaurant whose ambience and food are perfect for love, such as:

  • The Rainbow Room in Niagara Falls
  • Treadwell in Niagara-on-the-lake
  • Casa Mia Ristorante in Niagara Falls
  • Windows by Jaime Kennedy in Niagara Falls
  • Trius Winery Restaurant in Niagara-on-the-lake

4. The Surprise

A key component of any proposal will always be the element of surprise, and since Niagara is known for its honeymoons rather than its engagements, the chances are good that your future fiancée won’t expect a ring even though the two of you are enjoying a romantic getaway. So long as you keep a poker face and make all the necessary arrangements ahead of time, there’s no reason you can’t pull off the surprise of your life in one of the most romantic settings on earth.

Getting engaged is a once-in-a-lifetime event. Why not do it in a unique place?

Cheap, Delicious Places to Grab a Bite in Niagara Falls

image001No matter where you are headed in Niagara Falls or what great attractions you have planned for the day, you should always be sure that your group is well-fed to avoid mood meltdowns and temper tantrums due to low blood-sugar. There is nothing worse than cutting a trip short because you didn’t plan a stop for lunch and everyone is much too tired and grumpy to keep seeing the sights.

That’s why we’re offering you a list of our favorite food stops around Niagara Falls. These cheap, delicious, and easy cafes, diners, and eateries should hit the spot, keeping you full and focused as you explore our city and surrounds.

1. Zappi’s Pizza and Subs

If you are craving familiar Italian food at a fabulous price, Zappi’s is definitely the place to go. This spot has been providing locals and tourists with fresh, fantastic pizzas and sandwiches since the 1970s, so you know you’ll be getting a quality meal when you stop in for a midday meal.

2. Savoury & Sweet

The chefs at this Niagara favorite strive for authenticity and excellence in every meal. Serving classic European dishes like goulash, schnitzel, and crepes, Savoury & Sweet effortlessly mixes traditional tastes with contemporary style and affordable prices.

3. Quesada Burritos and Tacos

image003Two borders might separate Niagara Falls from Mexico, but that didn’t stop Quesada Burritos and Tacos from opening up a Mexican food stand in the Niagara heartland. In fact, most patrons are astounded by the genuine taste of the restaurant’s fresh-daily salsas and guacamole.

4. Hershey’s Chocolate World

If your energy is flagging, you can easily renew your excitement with a trip to Hershey’s Chocolate World, one of the world capitals of rich, chocolaty goodness. This shop has everything a chocoholic needs to sustain themselves for a long vacation ahead: novel baked goods, thick milkshakes, silken fudge, and any type of Hershey’s candy you can call to mind. While you might imagine this spot as a pit-stop on your daily itinerary, it’s easy to spend hours tasting every treat you lay eyes on.

5. Rainforest Café

A favorite for kids of all ages, the Rainforest Café transports diners to the depths of the tropics with the sights and sounds of the Amazon. However, the smells will be pleasantly familiar, as the café’s available fare is crowd-pleasing food like burgers and salads.

6. Betty’s Restaurant

Travel is fun, but every so often you want to find a spot that reminds you of home. Whenever you feel homesick on your Niagara vacation, head straight to Betty’s where everything from the lighting to the food is designed to make you perfectly comfortable. Betty’s Restaurant has thrived for more than 45 years, and locals claim it is the best place in the city to enjoy a meal. Plus, Betty’s pie has won countless awards, so you should be sated from appetizer to dessert.

7. Perkins Restaurant and Bakery

Families go crazy over the delicious and nutritious dishes available at Perkins. Their entire menu is available all day long, so if you start to crave waffles and eggs after Niagara’s nightly fireworks show, you know exactly where to go.

Watching for Wildlife in Niagara Parks

SkylineBlog7Shh, did you hear that? While you are strolling through less-traveled regions of Niagara’s parks, you might happen upon a few members of Canada’s wildlife population.

Myriad wild animals call the regions around Niagara Falls home, and though most stay well away from the busy streets and pathways closest to the city center, farther reaches of the parks see abundant wildlife. If you want to go wild in Niagara Falls, here’s how to look and what you may find lurking in Niagara’s forests.

How to Watch

Most wild animals aren’t eager to come into contact with people, which means it takes ample skill and patience to spot creatures in their natural habitats. You should avoid getting too close to any member of Canada’s wildlife, from squirrels to coyotes, to protect both human and animal health. Instead of approaching any creature you spot, use binoculars or camera lenses to see animals up close.

For the best luck finding a creature outdoors, you should become familiar with common signs of various animals living in the area. For example, you can look for evidence of foods they eat or tracks they make. Written field guides can assist in this education.

Finally, make sure you adhere to common outdoor ethics and etiquette, including picking up any waste and traveling only on marked roads and paths. If you wish to venture onto private property, you absolutely must receive permission from the landowner, and if you are traveling in a group, be extra considerate, as groups have a more profound effect on the landscape.

What to Watch for

SkylineBlog8Animals big and small call the Niagara region home, and you have the opportunity to spot wildlife on land, air, or water.

Niagara Parks is especially proud of its extensive bird population, which number more than 300 different species of winged creatures. Some of the most outstanding avian animals in the parks are the large predatory birds, including bald eagles and peregrine falcons. However, bright, vociferous birds, like the blue jay and cardinal, are also delights to spot.

Most likely, you will find your path crossed by countless small mammals. Squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, opossums, and more of such creatures are quick and curious; many of these native Niagara residents have lost their instinctive fear of people, bringing them close to visitors. However, you should definitely avoid touching and feeding these animals, as it disrupts their wild independence.

Some Niagara guests seek encounters with more exciting wildlife, like large predators. Though human development has diminished populations of carnivorous mammals living in the area, many still roam in Niagara Parks, including Canada lynxes and wolves.

Safari Niagara

Of course, if you strike out on your hunt for animals in their natural habitats, you can always head over to Safari Niagara to see some wild beasts in the flesh. This fantastic zoo offers sights of unknown creatures such as the African hunting dog and Asian water dragon, exotic beasts like the African lion and Andean condor, and familiar faces including the American red fox and Canadian goose. So, even if you don’t spot Canada’s wildlife in the wild, you can see them just the same from the comfort of Safari Niagara’s pathways.

The Difference Between American and Canadian Niagara Falls

SkylineBlog5Like the Grand Canyon in Arizona — which boasts spectacular yet unique views from either the North Rim or the South Rim — Niagara Falls is a vast natural wonder that comes with two distinct perspectives: the American Falls and the Canadian Falls. Often, this comes as a surprise to travelers, who visit without realizing the national divide and are forced to select one side or the other. Fortunately, we can present a guide to both sides of Niagara Falls, so travelers can make an educated decision for their Niagara vacations.

What’s on the Canadian Side?

When most people imagine Niagara Falls, they picture Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side, and it’s no surprise why. Horseshoe Falls is the largest and most stunning of waterfalls the world over: Though only 170 feet tall, the Falls pull 750,000 gallons of water over the edge every second. The sound of the water, the feel of the mist, and the sight of complete landscape around Horseshoe Falls makes it a top world destination.

Because millions of world travelers journey to Niagara Falls each year, the Canadian side has hasted to cater to their needs with abundant amenities, like luxurious resorts, thrilling attractions, and a bevy of tours. The most popular trails are paved and replete with water fountains and lookout stops for easy, excellent viewing. The Canadian side certainly offers a classy experience of this natural wonder.

What’s on the American Side?

Though the Canadian side boasts the biggest waterfall, America claims two separate falls: American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. Plus, from the American side, visitors can see a panorama of all three waterfalls connected by the Niagara River. The series is magnificent to behold, as millions of tons of water rush down and down.

Niagara Falls and the surrounding region are protected areas under the New York State Park system, which means it offers fewer attractions for visitors to experience. In general, much more of the natural landscape has been preserved, which means the roads and pathways aren’t fully paved, and the forest is much taller and thicker than on the Canadian side.

SkylineBlog6There are a handful of attractions similar to those seen on the Canadian side, including the Maid of the Mist and a small historical museum, but the most common activity for the American side is walking. Hiking trails and walking paths take visitors both above and below the Falls — where they are sure to get damp from the misty spray. As a rule, those who seek vacations in the thickest of outdoor settings will likely fall head over heels for the American Falls.

Which Side Is Better?

Though we have a bit of a bias, we believe Niagara Falls north of the border offers more fun per square foot than the Falls to the south. Not only does Canada boast the most outstanding leg of the waterfalls — after all, most travelers come to see the enormous, picture-worthy Horseshoe Falls— but we also have world-class dining and entertainment to fill the rest of travelers’ vacations

However, unlike the Grand Canyon, which could take travelers hours upon hours to reach the other side, Niagara Falls can easily be viewed from all perspectives with a quick hop across the border. So, while most travelers will prefer to lodge on the Canadian side with all the bells and whistles of a luxury vacation destination, we heartily encourage travelers explore the American side, as well.

The History of the Canadian Flag

SkylineBlog3While Americans just can’t get enough of their stars and stripes, we Canadians are undeniably proud of our national flag. The Maple Leaf, or l’Unifolie (the One-Leafed), has only relatively recently become a national symbol for Canada, but it is easily recognized around the world, making it an effective marker of Canadian spirit.

Because Niagara Falls crosses the border between Canada and the United States, visitors to the area will undoubtedly see plenty of bright red Maple Leaf flags. Before you leave Niagara Falls, Ontario, be sure to pick up your own Maple Leaf and regale your friends with the story of its creation.

An Uneven Start

Canada has seen several different flags represent its lands since its discovery by the West in 1497. John Cabot (or Giovanni Caboto) was an Italian navigator commissioned by King Henry VII of England to explore the New World in the name of Great Britain; upon landing in Newfoundland, Cabot carried the flag of St. George’s Cross, which is a red cross on a white field. Commonly associated with the Crusades, St. George’s Cross was a “warrior flag,” and while today it is scorned by millions of Europeans, it was the first European banner to be flown in Canada.

In 1534, when Jacques Cartier claimed the land for France, he planted in the soil a flag bearing the French royal coat of arms and a fleur-de-lis. While the settlement of New France grew, several French military banners flew over the territory.

Meanwhile, after the first English settlement of Nova Scotia began in 1621, the Union Flag of Great Britain (the familiar red, white, and blue striped flag we see today) began to spread throughout Canada. In fact, the Union Jack would become the main flag of Canada for another three centuries.

Canadian Independence

SkylineBlog4Historians continue to debate when Canadians truly gained independence from Great Britain. Steps toward complete independence were taken throughout the 19th century, the largest of which was the signing of the British North America Act, which established a disparate parliament and prime minister in the territory. However, Canada and Great Britain maintained a close relationship for another century, and Canada continued to use British symbols, like the Union Flag and the British coat of arms.

During this period of questionable independence, several possibilities for the Canadian flag were introduced. An early contender around 1870 was called the Canadian Red Ensign, and featured the Union Flag in the upper left corner of a red field dominated by a Canadian shield, which depicted the quartered arms of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick — the most dominant provinces of the time. Significantly, this shield was surrounded by a wreath of maple leaves.

An Earnest Search

After flying the Canadian Red Ensign in World War II, Canadians began clamoring for a new national symbol. Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, who held office during the 1960s, commissioned designs for a more unique and distinct flag to reflect Canada’s personality; he hoped he could showcase the new designs during Canada’s centennial celebration in 1967. The committee, led by two heraldry experts, returned with three options:

  • The familiar Canadian Red Ensign with a Union Flag and a fleur-de-lis to represent French Canadians.
  • Three red maple leaves between two blue borders.
  • One red, stylized maple leaf between two red borders.

While the prime minister preferred the second option, one expert contended that red and white have long been associated as Canada’s national colors — even since the first St. George’s Cross was planted on Canada’s shores. As a result, the committee selected the final flag design, which continues to wave over Canada’s lands, even Niagara Falls, today.