Strategic Protocol and External Relations

City of Toronto flag

Competition winner Renato De Santis' design entry

Competition winner Renato De Santis' design entry

Elements of the Flag

  • the twin towers of City Hall on a blue background
  • the red maple leaf of the Flag of Canada represents the Council Chamber at the base of the towers

Design

The City Hall symbol is incorporated in the flag design as an abstracted white linear graphic against a predominant blue (Pantone 287) background.  A red (Pantone 186) maple leaf visually links Toronto to Canada and Ontario's heritage, flag and symbols.

The flag dimensions are based upon a 2:1 horizontal proportion.

History

On August 28, 1974, City Council appointed a committee to bring forward a suitable design for a new Toronto flag. The existing flag, designed by art advisory committee chairman Professor Eric Arthur and his son Paul, featured the city crest on a white and blue background. The art advisory committee recommended Council adopt the flag as the official city banner, however then Mayor William Dennison disagreed, saying, "It's not really a flag at all. It's just another good way of displaying the city's coat of arms."

And so, the City of Toronto Flag Design Committee was created. The committee was made up of Aldermen Paul B. Pickett, Q.C. and Reid Scott, Q.C. as co-chairs and Aldermen Edward Negridge, Colin Vaughan and Anne Johnston as members.

A competition to find a new flag was launched, open to residents of all ages in Metropolitan Toronto. On September 4, 1974, Council approved a $500 Canada Savings Bond to be awarded to the winning designer. Throughout the rest of the month, entry kits were distributed to the City Clerk's Office, Toronto and Metropolitan Toronto Libraries, the Toronto Board of Education and the Metropolitan Toronto Separate School Board. The deadline for receiving entries was October 18, 1974.

More than 700 submissions were received from children and adults from across Toronto, ranging in age from six to ninety years old. The designs were varied in colour and theme – some included Toronto landmarks like the CN Tower and City Hall, almost half incorporated the maple leaf and some focused on friendship and unity.

City Archivist Robert Woadden led the competition and was committed to maintaining a level playing field. He assigned each entry a number and locked all of them in the City Hall basement vault. The Flag Design Committee did not see any of the designs until judging took place on October 28 - 29, 1974.

Cover of the flag competition flyer that ran in Toronto newspapers in 1974

Flag competition flyer that also ran in Toronto newspapers in 1974

Copies of this entry flyer were distributed to the Toronto and Metro Library Boards, the Toronto Board of Education and the Metro Separate School Board.

Official contest rules for the 1974 flag design competition

A sample of the designs submitted for the 1974 flag competition:

On November 6, 1974, the Flag Design Committee submitted its selection to Council. With a unanimous vote, Council selected the design of 21 year-old George Brown College graphic design student, Renato De Santis. De Santis' design included the letter 'T' for Toronto, the outline of City Hall on a blue background and a red maple leaf representing the Council Chamber at the base of the towers. The flag was proportioned 4' x 6'.

An official flag raising ceremony was held in Nathan Phillips Square on November 7, 1974, where De Santis received his $500 prize. Letters from the Flag Design Committee were sent to residents who submitted a design for the competition, thanking them for their participation.

The first copy of the new flag was stolen from the flagpole where it flew outside of City Hall and had to be replaced.

With the amalgamation of the former cities of Etobicoke, Scarborough, North York, York and Toronto, the Borough of East York and the Metro level of government taking effect on January 1, 1998, a second competition was launched in 1997 to find a flag for the new City of Toronto. The public was invited to submit designs for a new flag but had to follow more specific criteria such as limiting designs to three colours and proportioned 3' x 6'. The prize for the winning design of the new Toronto flag was a $3000 honorarium.

Council did not approve any of the 161 design submissions received from the public so asked City design staff to submit proposals.

Official entry form by 1974 flag design competition winner , Renato De Santis.

A thank you letter was sent from Aldermen Paul B. Pickett and Reid Scott, co-chairmen of the City of Toronto Flag Design Committee, to all those who submitted designs to the competition.
 

Flyer for the second flag design competition in Toronto

A sample of the designs submitted for the 1999 flag competition:

During the Council review of staff designs, the designer of the original Toronto flag, Renato De Santis, suggested his design be approved with minor modifications to fit the 3' x 6' format. De Santis was now the head of an advertising firm specializing in logos and designs.

At a council meeting in November 1999, after months of heated debate, Deputy Mayor Case Ootes decided to let the public have a say in what flag design they preferred. Deputy Mayor Ootes, who was chairing the meeting, polled the audience in the Council Chambers as to what design they liked best – the slightly modified original flag designed by Renato De Santis or a design recommended by Councillor Brad Duguid. Councillor Duguid's design received polite applause while the former Toronto flag evoked cheers and whistles from the audience, clearly the favourite.

Council adopted the modified old design with a vote of 31-14. The City of Toronto had its new flag.