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Manitoba (Canada)

Last modified: 2022-02-12 by rob raeside
Keywords: manitoba | canada | buffalo | bison | cross: st george |
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Flag of Manitoba (Canada) image by Clay Moss, 17 August 2009

ISO 3166-2 Code: CA-MB
MARC Code: mbc

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British red ensign with arms in fly - green with a bison standing on a rock, St. George's cross in chief. ratio 1:2. officially hoisted 1966-05-12. Civil and state flag on land.
Željko Heimer, 16 July 1996

The legislation referred to is 'An Act respecting the Flag of Manitoba' which received Her Majesty's approval on 27 August 1965, and was "assented to 11 May 1965". Article One of the accompanying Schedule is largely quoted, however, it goes on (in Paragraph 2) to give the colours in the (now redundant) British Admiralty Colour Code as "No. T1144 for nylon worsted bunting and No. T818A for other bunting".

Article Two of the Schedule is an illustration of the flag, which shows that the shield is not exactly "centred on the half furthest from the staff" as per the prescription in Article One, but (as is confirmed by a later official coloured model) actually has the square of the shield centred which places it overall below the centre of the fly half. There is a slight disparity between the two illustrations (5% of flag width to be exact), however, making a slight adjustment to both creates a shield height equaling 5/12 of flag width, whilst both show shield proportions of 5:4.
Christopher Southworth, 25 January 2005

I am convinced that there is no "wrong" way to depict the bison (within reason, of course), I've seen many different slight variations on the bison. Note that the colour of the rocks is grey, not brown. I haven't seen brown rocks on Manitoba flags here except on cheaply made flags that are trying to reduce the number of colours on the flag. The spec sheets I have show grey rocks; and also in the coat of arms. This is also a scan of an official government document for the coat of arms, so if you wish to use that shield you can, but, as I said, there doesn't seem to be a prescribed way to depict the bison (or rocks for that matter) other than colour.
David Kendall, 15 August 2009

Variant flag

Flag of Manitoba (Canada) image by Clay Moss, 16 August 2009

I have 5 different Manitoba flags in my own collection, all Canadian made by reputable flag manufacturers, (former) Canadiana, Flags Unlimited, Scyco, and the old Annin Canada. They are all nice high quality 70 denier nylon flags. To a flag, all of the rocks are brown. I even have an old all sewn wool Manitoba flag, probably manufactured in the 1930s. Once again, a brown rock adorns the badge.
Clay Moss, 16 August 2009

The wording of the flag bill only says "on a rock a buffalo stantant proper", so it lends itself to many varieties in both the buffalo and rock colour and design.
David Kendall, 16 August 2009


Coat-of-Arms of Manitoba (Canada) image provided by David Kendall, 21 March 1997

The history of Manitoba's most important official symbol is virtually as old as the Province itself. Within a few weeks of the formal entry of the new Province of Manitoba into Confederation on 15 July 1870, a new seal was adopted as the first Great Seal of the Province. /p>

At the centre of this seal was a shield featuring a buffalo beneath the red cross of St. George bearing at its centre, a representation of the Royal Crown. Unfortunately, no evidence has yet surfaced to indicate who was the author of this striking design. The inspiration for it is quite clear. As Dr. Conrad Swan, Garter King of Arms, has noted in his excellent study, Canada Symbols of Sovereignty

"For all but two centuries, the Hudson's Bay Company had exercised vice regal jurisdiction over the area out of which Manitoba was carved. The principal charge of the company's arms is the red cross of St. George, and so it was appropriate that this should form part of the arms for the Province. The buffalo, which is the major charge of the provincial arms, was the most singular of the several fauna of the area."

More than thirty years passed before the provincial authorities sought to have lawful arms granted to Manitoba. In response to an Order in Council of 10 December 1903, King Edward VII signed a Royal Warrant on 10 May 1905 assigning arms to the Province. These consisted of a heraldically correct version of the major elements found on the Great Seal of 1870. In the arms the buffalo stands on a rock and the Royal Crown does not appear at the centre of the cross.

This symbol, familiar to generations of Manitobans and other Canadians has served the Province as its principal mark of identity and authority until today.

In May this year (1992), the Honourable Gary Filmon, Premier of Manitoba, on behalf of the Government and people of Manitoba advised His Honour, the Honourable George Johnson, M.D., Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba, of the province's wish to augment the shield of arms of the Province as a celebration of Manitoba's heritage and accomplishments and in permanent commemoration of the 125th anniversary of Confederation.

His Honour transmitted this request to His Excellency the Right Honourable Ramon John Hnatyshyn, Governor General of Canada who is Head of the Canadian Heraldic Authority. The Authority was created on 4 June 4 1988 pursuant to a Royal Warrant which vested the prerogatives power possessed by Her Majesty as Queen of Canada to create heraldic honours with the Governor General. Canada is the first country outside Britain within the Commonwealth and the first in the western Hemisphere to exercise this power in its own domain.

The augmentation involves adding to the shield all the other elements which for centuries have comprised a full coat of arms; the crest above the shield, the supporters at either side, the compartment on which the supporters and the shield rest, and the motto. The historic and current view of augmentation, especially for provinces, is that they are a visual expression of the importance that these entities have in the life and character of the nation. Augmentations are undertaken for the "greater honour" for the Province.

From an aesthetic and historical perspective augmentation offer a unique opportunity to enrich and extend the visual impact and symbolic meaning of the original arms.

On the 23 October 1992 the Right Honourable Ramon John Hnatyshyn, Governor General of Canada and Head of the Canadian Heraldic Authority brings into being the augmented arms of the Province by signing a Vice-Regal Warrant during a special ceremony in the Legislative Assembly in Winnipeg. Immediately following, the fact of the augmentation and the bringing into use of the newly augmented Arms are announced through issuing of a Royal Proclamation which is signed by the Premier, Minister of Justice and Minister of Culture and witnessed by the Lieutenant-Governor.

These new arms, the first ever to be created in this fashion in Canada, are directly inspired by the history and environment of the Province and enshrine its floral and arboreal emblems.

At the centre of the new arms is the familiar shield of 1905. Above the shield the gold helmet signals Manitoba's co-sovereign status in confederation. Flowing around the helmet is the traditional component of the mantling, here granted in Canada's national colours of red and silver. Above the helmet is the Crest. The beaver, Canada's national animal and symbol of industry and determination also represents the riches of Manitoba's natural environment and the fur trade of the historic period which was such an important element of the Province's early economic and social development. The beaver holds a prairie crocus, the Province's floral emblem.

On the beaver's back is the Royal Crown, granted as a special mark of honour by Her Majesty the Queen on the recommendation of His Excellency the Governor General. Occupying the senior position in the arms it symbolizes Manitoba's status as a key component of the Canadian community and its character as part of a constitutional monarchy. The appearance of the Crown also recaptures the feelings of loyalty which prompted the use of the crown in the Great Seal between 1870 and 1903.

Turning to the supporters, on the viewer's left is the unicorn. This complex fascinating and graceful mythical creature is one of two supporters in the Royal Arms of Canada, in turn inherited from the Arms of Great Britain and ultimately from Scotland, homeland of so many of the first Europeans who came to Manitoba. At its neck is a collar of green stones with silver masonry bearing a decorative frieze of silver maple leaves. This collar represents Manitoba's position as Canada's "keystone" province, an adjective long used to describe its geographical and economic importance in the centre of the country and, as well, the stones of Fort Garry and some of the other historic buildings in the Red River Valley. Hanging from this collar is a wheel of a Red River cart, symbolic of the most distinctive form of transport developed in Manitoba, honouring the province's distinctive historical development.

On the viewer's right is a white horse, an animal vital to the culture of several of the First Peoples, the Metis and the European settlers. The collar of bead and bone, honours all of the First Peoples and hanging from it is their symbol for the nature and meaning of our existence, the sacred circle or cycle of life.

The supporters and the shield rest on a compartment which is a visual metaphor for Manitoba. Rising above the blue and white waters of the province's lakes and rivers are the grain fields and forests, composed of the provincial tree, the white spruce. The seven prairie crocuses at the centre represent one people made up of many diverse origins in celebration of the multicultural character of the population.

At the base the symbol is anchored by the motto. A Latin translation of a stirring phrase from the national anthem "Glorious and free" evokes the character of all Manitobans and their democratic inheritance.

The best symbols are a dramatic distillation of the communities they represent and serve. The Governor General's gift to Manitoba in 1992 embellishes and enriches a symbol already deeply embedded in the citizens, and long may they be seen as worthy expressions of the special character of the province in the centre of Canada.
Robert D. Watt
Chief Herald of Canada

There were also two small leaflets included, one on the flag, and one on provincial symbols:

Manitoba's Flag

The official flag of the Province of Manitoba was given royal approval by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in October, 1965, and was officially proclaimed on May 12, 1966. This is the date in 1870 on which the Manitoba Act was given royal assent.

The flag is the Red Ensign on which the Union Jack is placed in the upper quarter on the "staff" side, while the provincial coat-of-arms is centred in the "fly" half of the flag.

The Manitoba flag may be flown by an individual or organization in the province, but precedence is given to the Canadian Flag.

Official Emblems of Manitoba

MANITOBA FLAG. The official flag of the Province of Manitoba is the Red Ensign bearing the provincial coat-of-arms. This flag was given royal approval by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in October, 1965, and officlally proclaimed on May 12th, 1966.

THE COAT-OF-ARMS of the Province of Manitoba was assigned by Royal Warrant of King Edward VII on May 10th, 1905. The Armorial Designs were specified as: "Vert on a Rock a buffalo stantant proper, on a Cheif Argent the Cross of St. George," to be borne on Seals, Shields, Banners, Flags or otherwise according to the Law of Arms.

[The pamphlet then goes on to describe the provincial bird (Great Gray Owl), the Floral Emblem (anemone patens - the prairie crocus), the Manitoba Tartan, and the Provincial Tree Emblem (the White Spruce).]

Well, I think that's about everything you wanted to know about Manitoba, and probably some you didn't.
David Kendall - 21 March 1997


In 1870 the buffalo was on the Seal, but not on the badge, and there were no Arms.

1870. Seal of Manitoba was a shield surrounded by a ring with a circumscription. The shield had a crown superimposed on the centre of St George's cross, above a buffalo half turning towards the viewer. 1870. The badge on the flag of the Lt-Governors flag had a crown superimposed on a combined St George's cross and St Patrick's saltire in the top left, three fleur de lis in the top right, and three wheat sheaves below.

1903. The Seal was changed. Crown removed and buffalo now standing on a mound facing dexter.

1905. Arms granted, which consisted of only a shield, copying the new Seal. This shield replaced the wheat sheaf badge on the flag of the Lt-Governor.
David Prothero, 3 December 2005

Lt. Governor

[Manitoba Lieutenant Governor] image by Marc Pasquin and Mario Fabretto

Manitoba ensign

An entry in Malcolm Farrow's 'Colours of the Fleet' (no images) notes:
"Manitoba maritime ensign. A Red Ensign defaced with a large water buffalo. This flag was designed on request by Dr Whitney Smith following the extensive flooding near Winnipeg during May 1997, for use in rescue boats. It reflects the official provincial flag which bears a bison."
David Prothero, 31 October 2009