Canadian Symbols and Icons: What Do They Mean?

Canadian Symbols and Icons: What Do They Mean?


Every nation has its share of national symbols that hold significant meaning in their country, and Canada is no different.  This blog will examine some of the most prominent Canadian symbols, and their meaning and significance in Canada today.

The Canadian Flag

Perhaps the most recognizable of all Canadian symbols is the Canadian National flag.  The flag features an image of a red 11-pointed maple leaf on a white square, with identical red bars on either side.  Before the creation of the Canadian flag in 1965, Canada had flown the Union Jack, the national flag of the United Kingdom.

These days, the maple leaf can also be seen in the logos of various Canadian companies such as Air Canada, and sports clubs such as the Toronto Maple Leafs. The flag represents hope, peace, tranquility, as well as strength, and national pride.

Canada’s Coat of Arms

The current Canadian coat of arms has been in use since 1921. The shield in the center pays tribute to the nations that established Canada: England, Scotland, Ireland, and France.  The three maple leaves below represent Canada as a nation of many people from different walks of life, who come together as Canadians. 

The national Canadian motto, “a mari usque ad mare” in Latin, or “from sea to sea” in English, is inscribed on the bottom of the coat of arms, representing Canada’s vast geographical reach from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.  The coat of arms serves as an important reminder of Canada’s past, as well as its present and future, reminding us that this a place where anyone is welcome to make a home.

The Beaver

The Beaver is Canada’s national animal and one of the most iconic symbols of the country worldwide.  The beaver played a prominent role in Canada’s development during the fur trade in the 1600s.  It became a symbol for the Hudson Bay Company, a Canadian department store chain that originally started as a Fur Trading business in 1670. 

In the second half of the 19th century, the popularity of the beaver as a Canadian symbol declined.  However, it was revived by the founder of Fleming College himself, Sir Sanford Fleming, who designed Canada’s first postage stamp, the 1851 three-penny beaver.

Later in 1937, the beaver was added to the 5-cent nickel, and finally in 1975 was declared the national animal of Canada.  Representing a significant part of Canada’s history, and its natural ecosystem, the beaver remains a popular symbol to this day.

Ice Hockey

The last symbol to discuss is Canada’s most popular winter pastime, Ice Hockey.  Developed in Montreal, Quebec in the late 1800s, the game quickly grew and became incredibly popular across Canada. Hockey is known for its fast-paced and entertaining action. 

In addition to being played by Canadians of all ages in indoor rinks and on frozen ponds, it is also an extremely popular spectator sport.  Ice hockey players can also be seen on the 5-dollar bill.  Hockey is watched by millions and remains a symbol of Canada’s history, sporting excellence, unity, and national identity.

Every symbol has a meaning behind it, and these national symbols serve to represent Canada as a unique, strong, and independent nation.  The Flag, Coat of Arms, Beaver, and Ice Hockey all serve as various representations of Canada’s history, values, and national identity that bring every Canadian together.


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