November 13, 2016 7:20 pm
Updated: November 14, 2016 1:59 pm

Edmonton mulls new flag as residents wonder whether change would make a difference

WATCH ABOVE: The City of Edmonton is considering updating the municipal flag. As Julia Wong reports, the idea for a revamp comes from the very top.


The City of Edmonton is mulling a potential change to the municipal flag, and Edmontonians are being asked to chime in.

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On Wednesday, Iveson put forward a motion at city council, asking administration to collect public input on Edmonton’s current flag, which incorporates the City of Edmonton’s coat of arms on a white field with two blue borders. Iveson’s motion still needs approval from city council. The topic will be discussed on Nov. 29.

The blue is meant to symbolize strength and the North Saskatchewan River, while the white is mean to signify peace.

In a blog post, Iveson referenced a TED Talk about flag design conducted by Roman Mars, which spurred the ongoing discussion about updating Edmonton’s current flag.

Mars, who prides himself on being obsessed with flags, said the ubiquitous symbols of pride are often terribly designed. According to Mars, there are five basic principles when it comes to flag design:

  • Keep it simple;
  • Use meaningful symbolism;
  • Use two or three basic colours;
  • No lettering or seals/coats of arms;
  • Be distinctive.

So, does Edmonton’s flag follow these design principles? Iveson doesn’t think so.

“I don’t hear a ton of passion for the flag that we have,” he said. “I’ve heard concern that I want to change the crest. I don’t want to touch the crest at all. The crest is great. It just doesn’t make a great flag.”

Iveson has also asked city staff to collect public input on a flag designed by Ryan McCourt, which was presented by the Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations at city hall in August on Treaty Recognition Day.


“I think there is a valid design critique of the old flag personally, but if we hear from the public they don’t want to change it, I’m fine with that outcome,” Iveson said.

McCourt’s flag design was part of an art contest on the theme of Treaty 6 Day. In his post, Iveson wrote the design was drawn from the text of the treaty, which reminds settlers and First Nations beneficiaries that the treaty is not time-limited, but enduring “as long as the sun shines, as long as the grass grows, and as long as the river flows.”

McCourt has been an artist for more than 15 years and has a passion for flag redesign. He said Edmonton’s current city flag leaves a lot to be desired.

“I should see what my flag looks like, oh no, that’s terrible,” he said when he first saw the municipal flag.

“All over the world, there are these terribly-designed municipal flags because they’re just not really thought about.”

McCourt said it makes “no sense” to put the city’s crest on the flag and would prefer to see a simpler design.

He said a new flag would transform how the Capital Region is seen by its residents and by those who live elsewhere.

“I think it would signify we’re taking ourselves seriously in how we’re presenting ourselves to the world. Edmontonians, as a distinct community of people, would benefit from having a banner that we can rally behind, call our own, have pride in.”

Jabir Devjee, manager of Aurora Flags and Banners, said flags can signal many things.

“They signify unity. They signify cohesiveness. They signify a common shared ideal or value,” he said.

“We need symbols as a society and as a people to show who we are and what’s important to us.”

Devjee said he believes flags, including municipal flags, are still relevant.

“If people in our city don’t know what our flag looks like, I would say that’s a problem. It’s important to have a flag or a design that everyone can get behind. Civic pride is something that every city is after.”

However, Devjee’s criticism of the current flag includes how it pays homage to the city’s past rather than its future as well as how it tries to pack in many layers of symbolism.

There is mixed reaction to the city’s current municipal flag, to McCourt’s design and to whether a new flag would make any type of difference.

Ethan Calvin calls the current flag “pretty cool” and said there is nothing wrong with the design. He calls McCourt’s flag “majestic” and “minimalistic.”

However, he said a new flag would not make a big difference to him.

“It would just be a new flag,” he said.

Others call McCourt’s flag “really plain.”

“It shows the river valley and stuff but the [current] one is a lot better,” Jodie Lamb said.

“There’s nothing really interesting in it. The other one tells more a story of who we are,” Natasha Craig said.

“I think we are good with what we have. Why do we need to change it?”

Zach Grams said things like Rogers Place mean more to a city than a flag.

“I never even see the old flag hanging around the city that much anyway. It’s not something I’m too passionate about,” he said.

To read more about the design and symbolism of McCourt’s flag, and to weigh in on both, head to Iveson’s website.

-with files from Caley Ramsay

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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