Amid much controversy, the Maple Leaf flag replaced the Canadian Red Ensign, which had been, with various successive alterations, in conventional use as a Canadian national flag since 1868. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Lester Pearson, resolutions recommending the new flag were passed by the House of Commons on December 15, 1964, and by the Senate two days later.
National Flag of Canada Day was instituted in 1996 by an Order in Council from Governor General Roméo LeBlanc, on the initiative of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. At the first Flag Day ceremony in Hull, Quebec, Chrétien was confronted by demonstrators against proposed cuts to the unemployment insurance system, and while walking through the crowd grabbed by the neck and pushed aside a protester who had approached him. In 2010, on the flag's 45th anniversary, federal ceremonies were held to mark Flag Day at Ottawa, Winnipeg, St. John's, and at Whistler and Vancouver in conjunction with the XXI Olympic Winter Games. In 2011, Prime Minister Stephen Harper observed Flag Day by presenting two citizens, whose work honoured the military, with Canadian flags which had flown over the Peace Tower. It was announced as inaugurating an annual recognition of patriotism.
It has been suggested that Flag Day should be declared a national statutory holiday, as there are no such days off between New Year's Day and Good Friday, except Family Day in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, and Saskatchewan, and Louis Riel Day in Manitoba. That suggestion grew louder as the flag celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2005. On Flag Day in 2007, New Democratic Party Member of Parliament Peggy Nash introduced a private member's bill to make Flag Day a federal statutory holiday, leaving it to the provinces to decide if the holiday would be marked in their respective jurisdictions.
Although National Flag of Canada Day is not a holiday, it is celebrated with many events around the country.