This is the chapter entitled, New Brunswick, from the book,
The Flags of Canada, by Alistair B. Fraser.
This work is copyrighted. All rights reserved.


Chap XVI:


(Hope restored)
Motto of New Brunswick


Many symbols of New Brunswick date from the arrival of the Loyalists in 1783 and its establishment as a separate colony in 1784. The great seal deputed to the new colony the following year bore the motto Spem Reduxit and a illustration of a ship, both of which spoke of the Loyalists' journey to return to life under the British crown.1

By the time New Brunswick entered Confederation as one of the founding provinces in 1867, the symbol of the ship had taken on an additional meaning. The province now boasted a significant ship-building industry, so when arms were assigned in 1868 a conventional heraldic ship, or lymphad, was placed on them in apparent acknowledgment of this.2 The shield of arms also bore a golden lion identical to one of the a royal lions of England, but with the possibly additional allusion to the same lion found on the arms of the German Duchy of Brunswick (at the time ruled by King George III), after which the province was named.

In 1870, the arms of New Brunswick were officially incorporated into not only the badge on the flag the lieutenant-governor, but also on the quartered badges on the governor general's flag and the Canadian Blue Ensign. It also appeared unofficially on the Canadian Red Ensign until that too was approved in 1892.

Yet, the armorial banner of New Brunswick apparently was not used alone until the 1960s even though the Royal Warrant of 1868 provided for the arms to "be borne for the said respective Provinces on seals, shields, Banners, Flags or otherwise according to the laws of Arms." However, as was explained earlier, the armorial banner of a province is not automatically a provincial flag, but rather, like the arms themselves, a symbol of the authority vested in the government of the province. In is up to that government, if it so wishes, to make the flag available to the public, which is what happened on February 24, 1965, when the Lieutenant Governor proclaimed it the provincial flag.


New Brunswick gains a Provincial Flag

In the early 1960s the armorial banner of the province had been used as a distinguishing flag on the Premier's car on special occasions. This was an appropriate use of the banner to represented the authority of the Premier.3 But no attempt was made to transform this flag into a provincial flag until it was driven by political expediency in the early days of 1965. The Parliament in Ottawa had just adopted the National Flag which became official on February 15. In various places in the country, including New Brunswick, imperialist sentiment sought to recapture the lost Red Ensign by turning it into a provincial flag. It was this sentiment, or at least fear of it, which prompted the government of Premier Lois-J. Robichaud to adopt instead the armorial banner. It happened as follows.

Just before the sitting of the Legislative Assembly in early 1965, both Premier Robichaud and his Executive Assistant were on holidays. This left the Robert Pichette, the Administrative Assistant, to hold down the fort in the Premier's Office. In strictest confidence, Pichette received word from an acquaintance that the Opposition had agreed on a parliamentary strategy for the upcoming Session: they would not debate the traditional Speech from the Throne, but instead would introduce a motion calling for the Red Ensign bearing the arms of the Province to become the official flag of New Brunswick.

This would not only have caught the government off guard, it would have undercut government support. The government, led by an Acadian, would have had to oppose the motion, unavoidably alienating many of the Anglophones. The only recourse Robert Pichette had open was to undercut the Opposition by having the government proclaim a provincial flag, but he had to act quickly before the opening of the next Session. Heraldically knowledgeable, Pichette chose to transform New Brunswick's armorial banner into its provincial flag. To do this, he sought help from an old friend from his days in the RCAF, Lt. Commander Alan J. Beddoe. He hardly could have chosen anyone better: Beddoe was Canada's leading heraldic artist and, among other things, the man responsible for the 1957 revisions to the Arms of Canada.

This choice for a provincial flag prompted them to deal with a long-standing error in the arms themselves. A heraldic rule insists that an item on a shield, called a charge, should face to the shield's dexter side; that is, it should face the left as seen by the observer. This rule becomes particularly important on an armorial banner were it requires the charges to face the hoist. Imagine an army with its banners flying as it advanced toward an enemy. It certainly would undercut the efficacy of the advance, if a dragon, lion, or ship displayed on the banner was apparently in retreat because it was heading toward the fly. Up until 1965 representations of the lymphad of New Brunswick had headed the wrong way, and, while on the arms, this bothered few people, it would have looked silly on the provincial flag. Consequently, Pichette not only asked Beddoe to present it properly on the flag, but to simultaneously correct the arms.4

It was during these corrections that Pichette had the motto from the first great seal, Spem Reduxit, first incorporated into the design of the arms. Further, at this time, Beddoe and Pichette settled on the Aesthetically pleasing 5:8 ratio for the flag.

After confirming with Dr. Conrad Swan, York Herald of Arms, London, that everything had been done correctly, two prototype flags were ordered from a flag manufacturer, which rushed them back before the Premier returned from holidays. Less than two weeks had now transpired since Pichette received the intelligence which sparked the activity.

Upon his return, Premier Robichaud was presented with both the political problem, and its heraldic solution, in the form of one of the prototypes athwart the wall of his personal office. Robichaud smiled and said, "We'll do it, but there is something missing on your flag." Sure enough, no one had previously noticed that lymphad's oars were missing. A quick trip to a local seamstress solved that, and with the surreptitious printing of some informational brochures for M.L.A.s and the press, all was ready for the surprise announcement during the Speech from the Throne.

To undercut any possible opposition from imperialists wanting a red ensign the new provincial flag was offered with "thanks to Queen Victoria of Happy Memory," as it was she who had authorized it in the form of the province's armorial banner. No opposition was voiced; editorial comment was immediately favourable, and Robert Pichette never did find out whether or not the Opposition really had intended to call for the adoption of a red ensign as the provincial flag.

The new provincial flag was proclaimed by the Lieutenant-Governor on February 24, 1965, and that proclamation, anticipating the forthcoming status of New Brunswick as the only officially bilingual province, was printed in both languages.5


The Lieutenant Governor

New Brunswick was one of the original four provinces to have had a flag for its lieutenant governor approved on July 16, 1870. In the centre of a Union Flag was a white roundel bearing the New Brunswick arms surrounded with a Garland of Maple leaves. The flag had been approved for use when the lieutenant-governor was at sea. Ashore, the plain Union Flag would have been flown; before the beginning of the twentieth century it served as the flag of officialdom and was rarely used by the public. Thus the lieutenant governor probably continued to use the plain Union Flag at his residence for some time. Indeed, one report suggests he flew the plain flag in the mid-1950s,6 although by the early 1960s the lieutenant governor's flag was in use at his residence.7 A miniature version of his flag was used on his car, probably from early in the century. It appears that although the lymphad changed direction on the arms in 1965, the lieutenant-governor's flag maintained the original direction until 1981.

After over 110 years of use, the flag of the Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick was changed on September 22, 1981 when the Governor General approved his use of the modern pattern.8 It is interesting to observe the change in direction of the lymphad that accompanies the transition from the old flag to the new.


The Acadian Flag

The Acadian Flag is unusual in that it is not so much the flag of a political region, although it gained some official status in New Brunswick in 1984, or of a society, although it is the official flag of the Société Nationale des Acadiens, as it is a flag of a people: the Acadians, wherever they live in Canada. The flag is discussed here because Acadians occupy a larger fraction of the population in New Brunswick than in any other province, and because the province has given it some official recognition. Yet, it must be remembered that this flag should feel at home in any part of Canada.

Both the Acadian flag and anthem were chosen in 1884, at the second national convention of the Acadians of the Maritime Provinces, which was held at Miscouche, Prince Edward Island. The blue, white and red, tricolour honours France, the nation from which the first Acadians emigrated. The flag is distinguished by the Stella Maris or Star of Mary, which commemorates the guiding star of the Acadian people during their long time of adversity, and is an implicit recognition to their adherence to the Roman Catholic Church.6

In the predominantly Acadian portions of the province, the Acadian flag will often fly alongside the National and the Provincial flag; in the Loyalist portions of the province, it is the Union Flag that accompanies the other two.


Flags of Occasion

Two recent flags of occasion are presented. In 1984 New Brunswick celebrated its 200th anniversary as a province, and marked the event with a flag that placed the bicentennial symbol on a plain white field. The symbol, using blue and green to reflect the importance of both the sea and the land on the provincial economy, presented a portion of a pine tree stylized into the shape of a maple leaf.



Two universities in the province have flags: the University of New Brunswick and Mount Allison. The flag of the University of New Brunswick has been flown since late 1956 when it was raised over the Old Arts Building. The shield of the University arms, with its allusions to both learning and New Brunswick, are centred on a horizontal bicolour of black over scarlet.10 Flown first in the spring of 1986, the Mount Allison flag displays a golden cross on a scarlet field with a golden torch of learning in the canton.11


Municipal and regional flags

The capital city of Fredericton has perhaps the most unusual, and yet officially authorized, arms to be found in Canada. When the city was incorporated in 1848, a professor at King's College (now the University of New Brunswick) designed them without regard to any heraldic niceties. In the process he not only assumed three royal badges: a crown, the Union Flag, and the Royal Arms. In a strange concoction of three shields upon one, the city continued to use the arms without seeking authority until 1955 when the first attempts were made to have them regularized. Not surprisingly, the College of Arms was not sympathetic to Fredericton's usurpation and refused. The city continued to press its case for official recognition based on an unbroken usage of more than a century. In 1970, the College of Arms suggested that if the Queen would grant recognition, then they would. As a result of a petition from the Governor General, the Queen agreed and in 1971 the arms of Fredericton became official. Some time in the early 1970s, these arms were placed on a blue field to form the flag of the city.

In like manner, Moncton places the full achievement of its arms in a white roundel on a blue field, St. John places its arms on a white field. Bathurst places its arms on a white triangle at the hoist of a flag of yellow over blue.

The flag of the République du Madawaska is, as its name suggests, hoisted in a tongue-in-cheek homage to the independence of this region of northern New Brunswick and Maine. The President of the Republic, who also holds the clearly less prestigious position of Mayor of Edmunston, notes that the flag is more of a regional flag than a municipal one. The Madawaska region seems to have adopted the guise of a mythical republic during the border dispute between Britain and the U.S. in the early nineteenth century. At this time, one old man responded to the questions of a visiting French official with "Je suis citoyen de la République du Madawaska." In July 1827, John Baker not only declared this area of New Brunswick to be the American Republic of Madawaska, he hoisted a flag bearing an American eagle within a semicircle of red stars all on a white background. For this seditious act he was fined £25, and spent two months in jail.

Baker's flag has been used since it was revived in 1965 during the Great Decade of the Flags, but it was not considered official until sanctioned by the citizens of the republic, known as Brayons, during their first "Foire Brayonne" held in Edmunston in 1979. The six stars on the flag are said to represent the six founding cultures of the region: the Acadians, the Québécois, the Indians, the English, the Irish, and the Loyalists.12


This is the chapter entitled, New Brunswick, from the book,
The Flags of Canada, by Alistair B. Fraser.
This work is copyrighted. All rights reserved.



1. Ganong, W.F., "Insignia of New Brunswick," Acadiensis, 3 (1903), p. 137.

2. Ganong, W.F., "Insignia of New Brunswick," Acadiensis, 3 (1903), p. 138.

3. This information and what follows is based on a personal communication from Robert Pichette, the man who instigated the transformation of the armorial banner into the provincial flag.

4. When the author asked Robert Pichette if the motivation for the change in direction of the lymphad on the arms had been the desire to present it properly on the flag, he said yes, it was all prompted by the flag, and that furthermore, this was the first time anyone had ever asked. No one in New Brunswick seems to have noticed that their provincial symbol abruptly changed direction after nearly 100 years of going the other way.

5. Robert Pichette, who prepared the proclamation in imitation of that of the National Flag, says he made a mistake in the French portion. Instead of using the correct formula of "Dieu protège la Reine," he used "Dieu sauve la reine." However, "Nobody," he said in 1988, "has noticed so far!" Accordingly, residents of New Brunswick are requested not to read this particular end note.

6. The source is a letter to Mrs. Kathleen R. McKenzie, Secretary to the Lt. Governor of Saskatchewan, dated July 17, 1963 which provides information on the practices observed by the provinces in 1956.

7. Private communication from Robert Pichette.

8. The Canada Gazette Part 1 (February 9, 1985), p. 918.

9. "Le drapeau acadien," Un peuple à unir: Centenaire du drapeau acadien 1884-1984. (La Société historique acadienne de l'Île-du-Prince-Édouard, 1984), p. 22-23. This is a special issue, Number 10, of La Petite Souvenance.

10. The flag of the University of New Brunswick was designed by Mr. B.F. Macauley, then Vice-President (Administration). It is flown over the Old Arts Building whenever the University's Board of Governors is in session, or at the time of Encaenia, Convocation and Founders' Day, and on special occasions at the discretion of the President.

11. The flag of Mount Allison University was designed by Dr. Guy MacLean, University President, Dr. Donald Cameron, retired registrar, and Hon. George Stanley, Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick.

12. This information is compiled from various brochures, pamphlets, maps and miscellaneous missives which have issued forth from the office of the President of Madawaska over the years.


This is the chapter entitled, New Brunswick, from the book,
The Flags of Canada, by Alistair B. Fraser.
This work is copyrighted. All rights reserved.