designed Canada's flag|
Simple red-and-white design was chosen from
thousands submitted in 1965 under Prime Minister Lester B.
By JANE DOUCET
The Globe and Mail, Toronto
Wednesday, October 2, 2002 – Print
Edition, Page R11
The man whose design made the Canadian flag into one of the world's
instantly recognizable national ensigns has died in Sackville, N.B.
Historian, educator, author and former provincial lieutenant-governor,
George Stanley was 95.
Born in Calgary in 1907, Dr. Stanley was the only child of John and
Della (Lillywhite) Stanley. After receiving his early education in
Calgary, he completed a bachelor of arts degree from the University of
Alberta. In 1929, he attended Oxford University as the Alberta Rhodes
Scholar. While he was there, he indulged his love of hockey by playing for
the Oxford University Ice Hockey Club, which won the Spengler Cup in
Dr. Stanley returned to Canada in 1936 to head the history department
at Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B. Not long after, however, he
joined the army, first as a lieutenant with the New Brunswick Rangers and
then as an infantry training officer in Fredericton before going overseas
to be a historian at the Canadian army headquarters in London. He became
deputy director of the historical section and was discharged as a
lieutenant-colonel in 1947 in Vancouver. He came out of military
retirement the following year to help fight floods in the Fraser Valley
and was on the Reserve of Officers until 1967.
From 1947 to 1949, Dr. Stanley held the first chair in Canadian history
at the University of British Columbia. Awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, he
went to Ottawa in 1949 to research the history of Canadian government
policy dealing with native people.
"His father was a purser on a silk ship that sailed from Vancouver to
Shanghai, so he grew up appreciating other cultures," said his daughter
Della Stanley, who is the co-ordinator of the Canadian Studies Program at
Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax. "He became fluently bilingual
in French while he was at Oxford. He taught my sisters and me about local
history but he always gave us a broader picture, too."
In 1949, Dr. Stanley became the head of the history department at the
Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont., a post he held for 20 years.
From 1962 to 1969, he was RMC's first Dean of Arts. While there, he taught
the first undergraduate course in military history ever given in Canada.
Over the years, many of his students went on to become senior officers in
Canada's defence forces, including several chiefs of staff.
One of Dr. Stanley's RMC students was Desmond Morton, who attended the
college in the 1950s and is now a Canadian military historian and author
and the founding director of Montreal's McGill Institute for the Study of
"George's books and their non-conventional wisdom are a great
contribution to this country," Prof. Morton said. "When you do the
unexpected, you make a difference, and George always argued differently --
especially for the rights of French Canada, which wasn't a popular thing
to do at the time."
One of Dr. Stanley's most memorable and lasting achievements was his
involvement in the design of the Canadian flag. In 1964, John Matheson,
the parliamentary secretary for Prime Minister Lester Pearson, was in
charge of the flag committee. Mr. Matheson sought out Dr. Stanley's
opinion on a unique design for the flag, which the prime minister had
promised Canadians by the end of 1965.
"Dad wanted it to be something simple that a schoolchild could remember
and draw easily," said Ms. Stanley. "He also thought it should have a
national symbol and incorporate Canada's official colours."
At the bottom of a memo that he sent to Mr. Matheson, he drew a rough
sketch of the design he had in mind, which he based on the RMC flag. After
receiving thousands of design submissions from the Canadian public, Mr.
Matheson presented Dr. Stanley's sketch to the committee, which
unanimously approved it. On Feb. 15, 1965, the first official Canadian
flag was raised in Ottawa.
"What many people don't realize is that there was a lot of political
tension tied up with cultural differences in Canada," Ms. Stanley said.
"[He] received death threats because some people were angry that his
design had political meaning."
For his part, Dr. Stanley believed the flag symbolized both French and
English Canada, she said. "He had a very strong sense of duty to his
After his tenure at RMC, Dr. Stanley returned to Mount Allison
University in 1969 to set up the first undergraduate program in Canadian
Studies at a Canadian university. He taught trail-blazing courses in
Canadian civilization that dealt with literature, music, architecture and
"He was very demanding of his students and a stickler for French, which
was a component of the course," said David Beatty, a retired Mount Allison
University history professor and a former colleague. "But he always had an
open door and was available to the students. He had a tremendous passion
and feeling for history that is impossible to describe."
In 1982, Dr. Stanley became the 25th Lieutenant-Governor of New
Brunswick since Confederation; he held that post for five years.
He was also one of the founders of the University of Moncton, and the
author and editor of 18 books and numerous articles and book reviews.
During his lifetime, Dr. Stanley received countless honours in recognition
of his academic and public-service contributions, including a Companion of
the Order of Canada, a Canadian Forces long-service medal and 12 honorary
Dr. Stanley leaves his wife of 56 years, Ruth; and daughters Della,
Marietta and Laurie.
George Francis Gillman Stanley, historian, author and designer;
born in Calgary on July 6, 1907; died in Sackville, N.B., on Sept. 13,