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Northwest Territories (Canada)

Last modified: 2003-04-26 by phil nelson
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[Northern Territories (Canada)]
by Mario Fabretto - 21 July 1996

See also:

Status of the flag

Officially hoisted 31 January 1969.

Official Symbols Announced for New Northwest Territories

Yellowknife (November 19, 1998) -The Special Committee on Western Identity today announced which official symbols it plans to incorporate as part of the "new Northwest Territories" after April 1, 1999.

The new geographic NWT will keep the current flower (mountain avens), bird (gyrfalcon), mineral (gold) and tartan, as well as the polar bear licence plate. Symbols requiring new designs include the flag, coat of arms and mace.

The status of the official tree (jack pine) and the Government of the Northwest Territories logo (three legged polar bear) have yet to be determined. The Committee is also recommending the addition of a gemstone symbol, which would be the diamond.

The name "Northwest Territories" will continue to be used until such time as residents vote on a new constitution. This process is currently on hold. A change to the name and/or the constitution requires federal legislative approval.

Committee Chair, Seamus Henry said it's time western residents started getting excited about their new territory. "People in the west have a lot to be proud of. It's up to everyone to cultivate a new sense of pride and identity in who we are and what we stand for," said Mr. Henry. "The make-up of the new Northwest Territories includes Inuvialuit, Dene, Metis and many different non-aboriginal cultural groups. We have a lot of diversity. We have a lot to celebrate."

The Committee plans to solicit public input on designs for the new flag, mace and coat of arms. Announcements will be made in the coming weeks on the details and process.
Government of the Northwest Territories
contributed by Jan Oskar Engene,
23 November 1998

I found a press release from the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories concerning the work that has been started to find a new flag for Canada's Northwest Territories.

Search Begins for New Territorial Flag and Coat of Arms

Yellowknife (May 20, 1999) - The public search for ideas and designs for a new flag and coat of arms for the Northwest Territories was officially launched today with the release of a lively and colourful brochure produced by the Special Committee on Western Identity.

Committee Chair, Seamus Henry, said the brochure will be mailed to every household in the Northwest Territories and special kits will be sent to every school over the next few weeks. "There's a lot of public interest in these symbols. We've already had quite a few submissions over the last several months for designs. The Committee is anticipating a big response because people of all ages have a lot of pride in this territory and it's a chance to be a part of history."

Mr. Henry added that it was appropriate for a forum, such as the Youth Parliament held today, to be used as the means to announce the launch. "The youth are our future. They were very excited about the competitions and their opportunity to participate."

The brochure outlines details of the flag and coat of arms competitions, as well as suggestions, examples, research sources and points to consider in the designs of official symbols. A special submission form has also been included for ideas for the coat of arms for those who do not wish to draw a design. The deadline for both competitions is July 30, 1999.

In addition to mail distribution, brochures will be available at municipal offices in each community. An online version of the brochure will also be available on the NWT'99 website.

Jan Oskar Engene - 28 May 1999

At the January 19, 2000 meeting of the NWT legislative assembly, Stephen Kakfwi was selected to be the premier. Kakfwi was a member of the identities committee that recommended changing several of the symbols of the NWT when Nunavut was created. At the January 19th session, the NWT adopted a new mace, the only real action other than the selection of a new premier.

In the transcripts of the January 19 meeting, it is noted that one of the priorities of Kakfwi was changing the flag (and other symbols) of the territory (this in the question and answer session just prior to being elected premier).

However, there is some opposition. The costs of transitioning impact not just the government, but also private companies that had prepared promotional literature about the NWT symbols... and the concern is the cost that may result to these privately printed or produced materials.
Phil Nelson, 08 February 2000


[Franco-Ténois (Northern Territories-Canada)]
by Luc-Vartan Baronian

When I sent GIFs of French-Canadian flags in August, there was one missing - the flag of the French speaking community in the Northwest Territories. At the time my source article was written, a flag had not been adopted. It now seems there is a flag after all (adopted in 1992). The flag is described in French:

"Composé majoritairement de blanc et de bleu, les couleurs du drapeau franco-ténois font référence à la neige et à la francophonie. La courbe sur laquelle se situe l'ours évoque la proximité géographique des Territoires du Nord-Ouest au pôle Nord. L'ours incarne la liberté et la nature inhérentes à la grande étendue éloignée du Grand Nord. Il regarde briller le logo de la FFT, composé d'un flocon de neige et de la fleur de lys. Cette image illustre la participation et la contribution dynamique des francophones à l'essor des Territoires du Nord-Ouest. Ce drapeau représente les Franco-Ténois depuis 1992."
Jan Oskar Engene - 04 December 1996

"Mainly blue and white, the colors of the Franco-Tenois flag refer to snow and francophony. The curve on which the bear is sitting evokes the geographical proximity of Northwest Territories with North Pole. The bear represents freedom and nature, as caracteristic of the great far lands of the Great North. The bears looks at the shining logo of the FFT, made of a snow crystal and a fleur-de-lys. This symbol illustrates participation and dynamic contribution of francophones to the progress of the Northwest Territories. The flag has been representing the Franco-Tenois since 1992."
translation by Ivan Sache - 04 December 1996

There is no exageration in my translation. I really would like to know how important (in proportions) are the francophones in the Northwest Territories and in which way their contribution is different of the other peoples... (I don't like too much this idea of francophony seen as a factor of progress. Francophony is a fact, and nothing more than a fact...but that's all personal views).
Ivan Sache - 04 December 1996

Centennial Flags

[Ed: The logotype is not clear on the original photograph. FOTW believes the reconstructdion to be accurate]

[Northwest Territories red centennial flag]
[Northwest Territories blue centennial flag]
by Jorge Candeias

Northwest Territories Centennial Flag(s). These flags were issued during the centennial in 1970. The picture referenced on the photo archives of the NWT show two colors - blue and red. According to Fraser's book in progress on Canadian flags, there were several background colors used. The logotype is on a white roundel and features three Inuk dancers.
Phil Nelson - 26 August 1998

Polar Bear flags

Northwest Territories government polar bear flag

[Government Polar Bear flag]
by Jorge Candeias

The Polar Bear flag shown (blue field, white bear) is used by the government of the Northwest Territories, Canada. It's flown over most (but not all, I've noticed) territorial government buildings.
Marty Lyons - 2 October 1998

Tourism Division polar bear flag

[tourist division flag]
by Jorge Candeias

Another flag, white field, blue circle with bear enclosed isn't an "official" flag per se, but is the logo used by the territory's tourism division.
Marty Lyons - 2 October 1998

Flags of the communities of the Northwest Territories

The website of the Legislative Assembly of the NWT, shows a map with 31 settlements linking to as much pages about each of them. As refered, all of these settlements (30 villages and the city of Yellowknife) have their own flags, though 2 are currently missing from these pages. The clickable map on this pages has also hidden links to Ndilo and Dettah, possibly new pages to be soon added.

The linked pages shows concise info about each settlement and a small flag image (100 px. high) linked to a much larger image (269 px. high). I used the latter to produce FOTW standard images (216 px. high), with palette optimization and BS recoloring of the main areas (not of dithered edges and small badge portions).

There are some questions to be answered regarding the status of these flags. We already were informed that they are unofficial, though it would be nice to know about their actual usage.

I also wonder about the status of these settlements regarding the administrative structure of NWT. These doesn't seem to be "capitals" of some larger areas which would cover the whole territory (would this be the electoral districts and the land claim areas?), but rather isolated points on the map. Considering the vastness of NWT and the location of the settlements (mainly concentrated around the Great Bear Lake and long the MacKenzie river), it could be said that most of the territory is not "under" any of these flags.

An interesting vexillological feature of these flags is that most of them (in a ratio much higher than in the rest of Canada) follow the distinctive pattern of the national flag, the so called Canadian pale: three vertical areas, being the central one larger and white and the others much narrower and of the same color (mostely blue, also black and red). However, unlike the national flag, whose stripes are 1+2+1 (i.e., the central area is square and of double width), these NTW flags are rather 28+41+28, even if the overall flag ratio is 1:2 all the same.

A second vexillological question would be about the reverse of these flags. They all show more or less complex devices, often with lettering and/or naturalistc and unreversable elements, but in such a big size that a reverse corrected for correct reading would be quite unconspicuous.
Antonio Martins, 25 June 2000

Revisiting Alistair Fraser's work on Canadian flags, one comes up with the following:

In anticipation of the forthcoming territorial pavilion at EXPO 86, Michael Moor, Deputy Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs, suggested a display of municipal flags, one advantage of which would be that the newly created flags would outlast the exhibition. It was decided that all the flags would be based on that of the territorial flag (which is in turn based on the national flag). What was need was the motif for the centre of the Canadian pale. These were chosen by the communities and originated from many sources such as civic seals, letter heads, competitions and suggestions. Inkit Graphic Arts of Yellowknife chose the colour of the side panels to harmonize with the symbols.

In this process, two of the original municipal flags, those of Fort Smith and Inuvik, where adapted to the new pattern. The flag of Yellowknife already had a Canadian pale, while the flag of Pine Point, an incipient ghost town, remained unchanged. Yellowknife places its arms in the middle of the Canadian pale; Pine Point, now gone, featured one of the most popular symbols of the territories, the midnight sun.

This would also imply that the unofficial nature of the flags was because of the source of the flag, being developed for the Expo 86 and possibly not through the Chief Herald of Canada... well in 1986, Canadian heraldry was done in England. It was in 1988 that Canada was given authority to grant arms.

The quote does leave to question a few of the flags on-site. Were they adopted post-1986 because they don't fit into the pattern of a Canadian pale? Or were they changed to be more modern?

About the current usage the Legislative Assembly site, on another page ( states:

The flags of the 33 communities in the NWT align the path crossing the end of Frame Lake leading to the Heritage Centre and Legislative Assembly. Each flagpole features a plague that shows each community's name in the Aboriginal language of the area and then the official name.

So they are presently in use, even if only used presently in Yellowknife.

Basically, the locales are that: settlements, villages, communities, hamlets, etc., i.e. habitations of people. If one follows through the pages, one can see that the size of these communities vary from very small and upward. I don't know about now, but a map I had of the NWT from the pre-split days shows several Districts. What these entities represent(ed) I don't know.

According to the Government of the NWT, there are only 23 municipal governments under the laws of the NWT. The other 10 are unincorporated band communities, where the NWT provides municipal services, all related to the First Nations in the area. They are:

  • Jean Marie River
  • Nahanni Butte
  • Trout Lake
  • Wrigley
  • Dettah
  • Ndilo
  • Rae Lakes
  • Wekweti
  • Kakisa
  • Lutsel K'e
Phil Nelson, 25 June 2000

Flags of the communities of the Northwest Territories

Aklavik Coleville Lake Deline Detta
Enterprise Fort Good Hope Fort Laird Fort McPherson
Fort Providence Fort Resolution Fort Simpson Fort Smith
Hay River Holman Inuvik Jean Marie River
Kakisa Lutsel K'e Nahanni Butte Ndilo
Norman Wells Paulatuk Rae-Edzo Rae Lakes
Sachs Harbour Trout Lake Tsiigehtchic Tuktoyaktuk
Tulita Wekweti Wha Ti Wrigley