Learn about the City of Toronto flag, the city’s Coat of Arms and motto, the Mayor’s Chain of Office, and its Arboreal Emblem – Toronto’s Official Tree.
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.
On August 28, 1974, City Council appointed a committee to help design 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. But 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 of the designs incorporated the maple leaf while others 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.
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.
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 the 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.
The Toronto Coat of Arms is an official symbol of the City of Toronto.Use of the Coat of Arms on stationery and other items is restricted to the Mayor and Members of Council and as authorized by Strategic Protocol & External Relations.
The arms were officially granted by the Chief Herald of Canada on January 11, 1999. City Council petitioned the Canadian Heraldic Authority for arms during their meeting that took place October 28 – 30, 1998 after a public consultation process.
The Arms are shown in Volume 3 of the Public Register of Arms, Flags and Badges of Canada. The official announcement was made by Letters Patent on July 22, 2000 as seen in Volume 134 of the Canada Gazette.
The Coat of Arms was created after the amalgamation of the former cities of Etobicoke, York, North York, Scarborough, Toronto, the Borough of East York and the Metro level of government.
How it was created
Meaning of each symbol:
|The Shield: This represents the two towers of Toronto City Hall with the blue sky between and above the towers which form the capital letter T.|
|The Eagle: The eagle, known for its strength, bravery and power, is a symbol used by the Mississauga of the New Credit First Nation and the Huron-Wendat Nation, on whose traditional territory the City of Toronto is now located.|
|The City Wall: The mural crown is a symbol of municipal authority. On the wall are a rose to represent the former City of York,(a York rose with green thorns), a heart for the former City of North York (for the “city with a heart”) and another rose for the former Borough of East York (also a York rose with a gold centre).|
|The Intertwining Collar: The collar symbolizes added strength when working together. This is where the motto “Diversity Our Strength” came from.|
The Beaver: The beaver, a symbol of industry, has appeared on the coat of arms of the City of Toronto since 1834. The Green Grass: symbolizes the City’s proud legacy of many parks and recreational facilities.
|The Honeycomb:This is a symbol of energy and productivity. It is hanging on the collar of the beaver in a gold hexagon shape.
The Green Alder-Leaf: This is a symbol of the former City of Etobicoke, which is an English derivation of the Ojibwa word “Wadopika” or “Wadopikang” meaning a “place where alder grow.”
|The Bear: The bear symbolizes strength, determination, caring and protection of its offspring.|
|The Columbine Flower: This flower is a symbol of the former City of Scarborough. It is hanging on the collar of the bear in the gold hexagon shape. The placement of the green alder-leaf and the columbine flower shows the geographic placement of Etobicoke on the west and Scarborough on the east.|
|The Three Rivers: The wavy bands at the base represent the Humber, Don and Rouge rivers flowing into Lake Ontario.|
Diversity Our Strength: This phrase refers to the multicultural dimension of the city and the seven municipal governments that now form the City of Toronto.
For over a thousand years, originating with the Dukes of Normandy, civic authorities have borne an official seal incorporating the arms of the authority. This seal was originally worn on a gold chain around the neck of the chief official. This “decoration” has evolved into the modern Chain of Office. Although decorative, the practice of wearing a Chain of Office has become steeped in historic tradition, and is one that is followed not only by elected officials, but by the executives of civic organizations as well.
A modern Chain of Office is composed of several elements joined together with pieces of chain, from which hangs a medallion. Chains of Office are almost always sewn onto a velvet collar, which is not only decorative, but makes the chain much more comfortable to wear.
Upon inauguration of a new Mayor of Toronto, the Chain of Office is symbolically placed around the Mayor’s neck and traditionally worn throughout the inauguration ceremony at the First Meeting of Toronto City Council.
When the City of Toronto was amalgamated in 1998, the new Chain of Office utilized gold medallions to incorporate elements from the five former Cities and the Borough of East York, and the Municipality of Metro Toronto. The City of Toronto Chain of Office includes, clockwise from top:
The Mayor wears the Chain of Office on ceremonial occasions when he appears in his official capacity, as a mark of pride in the city in which we live. It also acknowledges the responsibilities, authority and dignity which are attached to the office of the Chief Magistrate of the city of Toronto.
Ceremonial events where the Chain of Office would be worn: First Meeting of Council, Mayor’s Levee and Official visits.
When not in use, the Chain of Office may be viewed in the display case located inside the reception area of the Mayor’s office.
The Oak Tree was designated Toronto’s Official Tree in Spring 2022. Thank you to the thousands of people who helped with selecting a new official tree. The oak was chosen as Toronto’s official tree while the other trees (birch, maple, pine) also received tremendous support. Close to 11,000 votes were received, with the oak receiving 47 per cent, the maple 31 per cent, the birch tree 14 per cent, and the pine tree received eight per cent of the votes.
Many Canadian levels of government have named a type of tree as an official symbol. The City of Toronto has signalled the importance of trees to Toronto through multiple Council decisions and most recently through its commitment to TransformTO.
Trees have played a meaningful role in the historical development of Toronto from the origin of its name, to their use in commemorating events and people, including many of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service during times of war (for example Coronation Park, Memory tree).
Trees provide a range of environmental, ecological, social, cultural and economic benefits and play a meaningful role in our city through their hard work absorbing water, cleaning the air, providing shade, reducing erosion, flooding and wind tunnels, and decreasing heating and cooling costs.
The selection an Official Tree that is a native tree species, easy to identify and found across Toronto helps raise awareness about our diverse urban forest while reaffirming our commitments to grow, enhance and protect it. The oak tree was selected as the Official Tree in the Spring of 2022 through an online public vote campaign that asked residents to select their favourite tree from amongst four choices (birch, maple, oak, pine).
How to identify an oak tree:
Ideal growing conditions:
Where to find oak trees in Toronto:
Oak species native to Toronto: