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Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia (Canada)

Last modified: 2020-07-26 by rob raeside
Keywords: nova scotia | cape breton island | bald eagle | island | sea | eagle: bald | tartan | saltire |
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Common Flag
[Cape Breton Island] image by Rob Raeside, 16 April 2008

Official Flag
[Cape Breton Island "Eagle flag"] image by Antonio Martins

See also:

Cape Breton Island

Cape Breton Island is part of Nova Scotia, but retains a very strong sense of regional identity, with Scottish and French influences much more obvious in its culture than on mainland Nova Scotia. There has been an unofficial flag of Cape Breton Island for many years, and when I went to try to buy one on my last visit there, I discovered that it no longer exists, and that this new official flag is there.

The new flag is white with four coloured bars across the bottom in blue over green over yellow over grey. These bars are separated by a narrow black fimbriation. The green bar rises up in the fly to silhouette a hill. Toward the hoist is a stylized green bald-headed eagle in flight. The colours include blue for sea; green for green hills; grey for the coal that is mined there. Ratio: 1:2.

The old flag used in Cape Breton Island was generally forest green (although one manufacturer insists she made in dark blue), with a yellow (or white) circle in the centre, carrying an outline map of Cape Breton Island coloured in Cape Breton Island tartan (green, yellow, black and white).
Rob Raeside, 3 October 1997

The white flag with the CBI-shaped eagle is almost never seen now, except on a few front licence plates on cars. It appears to have faded away, and the flag most widely seen on the island is now a Canadian pale, forest green and white, a couped forest green saltire overlain by a gold ring with a green map of Cape Breton Island in the centre on white. On the ring are written the words CAPE BRETON ISLAND and CANADA.
Rob Raeside, 16 April 2008

In "The Cape Breton Post", 22 November 2009, Chris Shannon and Erin Pottie relate the struggle of Margaret Gooding for the recognition of the flag designed by her daughter in 1993. The article also provides details on the adoption of the flag.
Her daughter, Kelly Gooding, was 25 when she designed a flag as part of a contest for the Cape Bretoner magazine in March 1993. It attracted more than 2,000 entries and named Gooding as the first-place winner. The publication described her design as ďremarkable for its directness, simplicity and expression of Cape Bretonís spirit.Ē

On a predominantly white background, she said the flag represented dignity, strength, pride and beauty. The island rises from the sea represented by a blue stripe and three other bands ó green, yellow, and grey ó symbolize the colours of the Cape Breton tartan. A bald eagle, in the shape of the island, on the left side of the flag ďflies strongly into the future, even though the future is unknown,Ē she said in her description.

Although it was adopted through a resolution at Province House, and received the seal of then-premier John Savage in December 1994, itís nearly impossible to find Cape Bretonís official flag outside the home of Margaret Gooding.
Gooding said the flag that has taken the place of the islandís official flag, is available in gift stores and itís used on car licence plates, ball caps, and clothing. Itís also commonly used as a prop in photographs of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan. It bears a forest green and white Canadian pale, a green diagonal cross in the middle overlaid by a gold ring with a green outline of Cape Breton Island. On the ring are the words, Cape Breton Island, Canada. The origin of the flag isnít known. The official flag appeared briefly on licence plates, T-shirts, and other souvenir items in the early 1990s but disappeared soon after, Gooding said.
Kelly Gooding, a mother of two who now lives in the Yukon, said her design of the flag was modified after the contest closed to reflect the Cape Breton tartan. The original concept had different colours, including orange to represent the molten steel of the Sydney steel plant. She said she wanted a design that broke away from Cape Bretonís traditional Celtic culture. ďI wanted something that was natural but recognizable and I liked something that had two meanings,Ē she said. ďSo if you looked at it quickly it might look like Cape Breton, but if you looked at it from a different angle, it was an eagle. I just wanted something that was intriguing. ďI didnít want to emphasize the tartan or I didnít want to emphasize the coal miner. I needed something that applied to everybody and I felt nature applied to everybody.Ē She added she isnít upset by any other versions of the Cape Breton flag and said she understands that her mom is proud.

Following the contest, the Cape Bretoner magazine placed all entries in binders, including the official flag, which circulated through public libraries on the island in May and June 1993. The flag designs were displayed at the Cape Breton Centre for Heritage and Science during the summer of 1993, and eventually archived at the Beaton Institute at Cape Breton University." - with a photo of Margaret Gooding holding the flag
Ivan Sache, 1 December 2009

Previous Flag

[Cape Breton Flag] image from Flagscan, 11 January 2002

from Flagscan [fsc]

In the 1940s a local flag emerged. lt was designed by Mr. Ralph Maclean of Ankerville St., Sydney. Its design suggests a saltire on a blue field with a circle the centre. However the arms of the saltire are broken at the outer ring of the circle. The design reflects the flags of Scotland and Nova Scotia. A map, in green, of Cape Breton fills the gold disc inside the circle. On the grey outer ring appear the words, at the top, Cape Breton Island, at the bottom the word Canada, each in upper case. Between the words and on each side are five small symbols, a fir tree (for the Mi'kmaq Indians), a fleur-de-lis for the French settlers, a thistle for the Scottish, a rose for the English, and a shamrock for the Irish. Later immigrants are represented by the outer black ring. The blue field is the Atlantic Ocean, the arms of the saltire are gold and represent the four counties of Inverness, Richmond, Victoria, and Cape Breton. The green map indicates farming, mineral and lumber resources, and the beauty of the Island. The gold circle stands tor fishing and offshore resources. The inner black circle recalls the coal mines, the first major industry of Cape Breton Island. The grey circle represents the steel industry. The arms of the saltire are broken and the gap between these bars and the circle marks the crossing of settlers to the New World.

Falko Schmidt, 11 January 2002

I'm a native Cape Bretoner, and I'm familiar with the so-called, "previous flag," with the saltire and image of the island, and all. The odd thing is though, that the versions of this flag that I've seen, are primarily vert and or. That is green and yellow. The field of this flag is green, not blue, nor is there any reference, in symbols of the peoples who are Cape Bretoners. The flag I've seen may be a simplified, more graphic version of this earlier flag.
Brian Gabriel, 16 April 2007

Today I saw a very similar flag, except that the saltire was green and the field was white (don't remember the details of the seal). The flag did look fairly old. It was hung in the front window of an Ottawa residence in Chinatown.
Luc Baronian, 12 November 2005


[variant of current flag] image by Rob Raeside, 19 February 2003

Keep in mind that until the white flag with an eagle appeared in 1997, there was no official flag for the island. However the island has a strong sense of regional identity, and it is no surprise that different people devised flags to represent the island. They were made locally, and I think both were sold in gift shops and tourist bureaus. My sense is that the yellow saltire on blue was more commonly seen in the 1980s, but the tartan map flag in the 1990s.
Rob Raeside, 19 February 2003

The Cape Breton tartan was developed in 1957 and has been in common use since then. The only significant event in the 1990s which may have some significance to the mentioned decade of the 1990s is that 8 communities in Cape Breton County were amalgamated into one community, namely the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. Those communities are Sydney, North Sydney, Sydney Mines, Glace Bay, New Waterford, Dominion, Louisbourg, and the County of Cape Breton. To mark this, a coat of arms, badge, and a flag were granted to the new municipality by the Chief Herald of Canada, Mr. Robert Watt.
Barry Gabriel, 24 October 2007