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Northwest Territories (Canada)

Territoires du Nord-Ouest

Last modified: 2013-11-03 by rob raeside
Keywords: northwest territories | canada |
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[Northern Territories (Canada)] image by Clay Moss, 14 August 2009

ISO 3166-2 Code: CA-NT
MARC Code: ntc

See also:

External Links

Status of the flag


The Flag was adopted by the Council of the Northwest Territories in January 1969.1 The design incorporates the territorial shield on a white centre section with blue sections on each end.

The blue panels represent the NWT lakes and waters. The white centre panel, equal in width to the two blue panels combined, symbolizes the ice and snow of the North. The design was the result of a nation-wide competition submitted to the flag committee of the territorial Council. Robert Bessant of Margaret, Manitoba designed the winning entry.

Also on the same page

The Coat of Arms (or Armorial Bearings) of the NWT was approved by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on February 7, 1957.

The coat of arms consists of two gold narwhals guarding a compass rose, symbolic of the magnetic North Pole. The white upper third of the crest represents the polar ice pack and is crossed by a wavy blue line symbolizing the Northwest Passage. The diagonal line separating the red and green segments of the lower portion of the shield reflects the treeline. The green symbolizes the forested areas south of the treeline, while the red represents the tundra to the north. Minerals and fur, the important bases of the northern wealth, are represented by gold billets in the green portion and the mask of the white fox in the red.

Also from the NWT website:

R.S.N.W.T. 1988,c.F-7

S.N.W.T. 1999,c.1
In force March 31, 1999


  1. The flag described in the Schedule is adopted as the flag of the Northwest Territories.
  2. The national flag of Canada and the flag of the Northwest Territories shall always be present in the place where and during the time when the Legislative Assembly is in session.
  3. This Act does not apply in that portion of the Territories described as Nunavut in section 3 of the Nunavut Act. S.N.W.T. 1999,c.1,Sch.B,s.1.

SCHEDULE (Section 1)


The flag is one of the proportions of two by length and one by width and consists of three vertical panels. The panels adjacent to the staff and on the fly are each 1/2 the width of the centre panel and are coloured blue (202-101). The centre panel is coloured white (513-201) and in the centre of the centre panel is the shield of the armorial bearings of the Northwest Territories.

(The numbers in the description represent colours as set out in the Canadian Government Specifications Board Publication, Standard Paint Colors, Part I, 1 GP-12c 1965.)

Phil Nelson, 9 May 2005

1 Ed: An earlier undated anonymous contribution lists the date at 31 January 1969.

I have an official model which shows the shield as occupying two-thirds of flag width in height, by one-half the central panel across (or proportions of 4:3).
Christopher Southworth, 10 May 2005


1) This flag was selected from over 3000 entries in a design competition, and was that of 18-year old Robert Bessant of Margaret, Manitoba (who won a $1,000 prize).

2) The anonymous date given for the flag (31 January 1969) is actually the date upon which it was unveiled to the 38th Session of the Council for the Northwest Territories.

3) The flag was subsequently formally adopted by a Flag Act that received the assent of the Commissioner on 18 February 1971.
Christopher Southworth, 9 July 2007

Original Flag

[Flag unveiling photograph]

Photo caption from Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly

NWT Flag committee presentation of the new flag for the Northwest Territories on January 31, 1969. Left to right: Air Marshal Hugh Campbell, Chief John Tetlichi of Fort McPherson and David H. Searle.

Jan Mertens, 13 September 2005

Commissioner's Flag

The Commissioner of the Northwest Territories was granted flag and badge on 15 June 2006.

Flag blazon: Azure the Badge of Office of the Commissioner of the Northwest Territories proper. Symbolism: The blue flag is similar to the flag used by the Lieutenant-Governors of most of the provinces. As a distinguishing feature, it shows the Badge of Office.

Shown here and here.
Valentin Poposki, 26 April 2009


Municipal entities:

  • 1 City
  • 3 Chartered Communities
  • 4 Community Governments
  • 9 Hamlets
  • 11 Settlements
  • 4 Towns
  • 1 Village

Other entities:

  • 2 Unorganized

Aboriginal entities:

Valentin Poposki, 12 August 2007

Northwest Territories Communities by Region Source: Government of the Northwest Teritories (not all communiities in the above listing are represented
Inuvik Region Fort Smith Region


The website of the Legislative Assembly of the NWT, shows a map with 31 settlements linking to as much pages about each of them. As referred, all of these settlements (30 villages and the city of Yellowknife) have their own flags, though 2 are currently missing from these pages. The clickable map on this pages has also hidden links to Ndilo and Dettah, possibly new pages to be soon added.

The linked pages shows concise info about each settlement and a small flag image (100 px. high) linked to a much larger image (269 px. high). I used the latter to produce FOTW standard images (216 px. high), with palette optimization and BS recoloring of the main areas (not of dithered edges and small badge portions).

There are some questions to be answered regarding the status of these flags. We already were informed that they are unofficial, though it would be nice to know about their actual usage.

An interesting vexillological feature of these flags is that most of them (in a ratio much higher than in the rest of Canada) follow the distinctive pattern of the national flag, the so called Canadian pale: three vertical areas, being the central one larger and white and the others much narrower and of the same color (mostely blue, also black and red). However, unlike the national flag, whose stripes are 1+2+1 (i.e., the central area is square and of double width), these NTW flags are rather 28+41+28, even if the overall flag ratio is 1:2 all the same.

A second vexillological question would be about the reverse of these flags. They all show more or less complex devices, often with lettering and/or naturalistc and unreversable elements, but in such a big size that a reverse corrected for correct reading would be quite unconspicuous.
Antonio Martins, 25 June 2000

Revisiting Alistair Fraser's work on Canadian flags, one comes up with the following:

In anticipation of the forthcoming territorial pavilion at EXPO 86, Michael Moor, Deputy Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs, suggested a display of municipal flags, one advantage of which would be that the newly created flags would outlast the exhibition. It was decided that all the flags would be based on that of the territorial flag (which is in turn based on the national flag). What was need was the motif for the centre of the Canadian pale. These were chosen by the communities and originated from many sources such as civic seals, letter heads, competitions and suggestions. Inkit Graphic Arts of Yellowknife chose the colour of the side panels to harmonize with the symbols.

In this process, two of the original municipal flags, those of Fort Smith and Inuvik, where adapted to the new pattern. The flag of Yellowknife already had a Canadian pale, while the flag of Pine Point, an incipient ghost town, remained unchanged. Yellowknife places its arms in the middle of the Canadian pale; Pine Point, now gone, featured one of the most popular symbols of the territories, the midnight sun.

This would also imply that the unofficial nature of the flags was because of the source of the flag, being developed for the Expo 86 and possibly not through the Chief Herald of Canada... well in 1986, Canadian heraldry was done in England. It was in 1988 that Canada was given authority to grant arms.

The quote does leave to question a few of the flags on-site. Were they adopted post-1986 because they don't fit into the pattern of a Canadian pale? Or were they changed to be more modern?

About the current usage the Legislative Assembly site, on another page ( states:

The flags of the 33 communities in the NWT align the path crossing the end of Frame Lake leading to the Heritage Centre and Legislative Assembly. Each flagpole features a plague that shows each community's name in the Aboriginal language of the area and then the official name.

So they are presently in use, even if only used presently in Yellowknife.

Basically, the locales are that: settlements, villages, communities, hamlets, etc., i.e. habitations of people. If one follows through the pages, one can see that the size of these communities vary from very small and upward. I don't know about now, but a map I had of the NWT from the pre-split days shows several Districts. What these entities represent(ed) I don't know.

According to the Government of the NWT, there are only 23 municipal governments under the laws of the NWT. The other 10 are unincorporated band communities, where the NWT provides municipal services, all related to the First Nations in the area. They are:

Phil Nelson, 25 June 2000