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On December 15, 1964, after a prolonged and bitter debate lasting thirty-three days, the House of Commons passed an act providing a national flag for Canada. The design chosen was based on the flag of the Royal Military College in Kingston.
Although debate over a distinctive Canadian flag lasted for nearly a century, there was renewed controversy during the election campaign of 1963, when Liberal leader Lester B. Pearson promised that Canada would have a flag of her own within two years. Once in power, Prime Minister Pearson promoted a design by an Ottawa heraldic expert, Alan Beddoe. This design, with three maple leaves on a white field and a vertical blue bar on each end, soon became known as "Pearson's Pennant."
By contrast, the Leader of the Opposition, John Diefenbaker, favoured the Red Ensign, the flag of the British merchant marine, which had flown on Canadian vessels since 1892. Furthermore, in 1945, it had officially replaced the Union Jack as Canada's flag on land until such time as the Canadian Parliament chose a new one.
While the majority of Canadians lined up in support of either side of the political debate, a fairly vocal minority had their own ideas as to what constituted a proper flag for Canada.
In response to an invitation from the Special Committee on a Canadian Flag, an all-party committee of the House of Commons was set up in September 1964 to report on a suitable design, and some 2,000 suggestions were submitted. A steering committee examined these designs, as well as about 3,900 others, including those that had accumulated in the Department of the Secretary of State and those from a parliamentary flag committee of 1945-1946. Designs with a chance of acceptance were turned over to the full committee for consideration. After examining the various designs, the members of the committee posted their favourites on the walls of the committee room for consideration by the other members. A Canadian Press report of October 1964 described the room as "a blinding sight" with hundreds of designs in "all color combinations and motifs."
Lacking standards, submissions came in all shapes and sizes and on a variety of materials. Submissions were drafted on wrapping paper, tissue paper, wall paper, cardboard, bristol board, mat board, pieces of cloth and other materials. Beyond that, people used pictures out of magazines, the labels off commercial products, post cards or petitions in support of their favourite design.