Town unveils new flag, coat of arms

Right Rev. Ralph Spence straightens the new town flag about to be raised at the Court House on Queen St. in NOTL Tuesday, 200 years to the day after the burning of the town.

Right Rev. Ralph Spence straightens the new town flag about to be raised at the Court House on Queen St. in NOTL Tuesday, 200 years to the day after the burning of the town.

By Jennifer Chornley

For the Advance

The historic Courthouse that was once the town hall was the site of the unveiling of the town’s new flag and coat of arms Tuesday.

It was 200 years ago to the date that departing American troops occupying the town during the War of 1812 left their mark by burning the town to the ground, leaving only two structures still standing. Smoldering ashes were all that remained, leaving women, children and old men homeless in the bitter winter elements—the majority of men were either soldiers or had been taken prisoner.

Lord Mayor Dave Eke, accompanied by Right Rev. Ralph Spence, Albion Herald Extraordinary, led the unveiling ceremony.

Spence, who served as bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Niagara from 1998 to 2008, represented the Chief Herald and read the official proclamation. He is one of only four Canadians who hold the title of herald extraordinary.

The process to establishing a new town flag and coat of arms began two years ago. During this time, Eke worked with local community organizations - the Municipal Heritage Committee, Friends of Fort George and the 1812 Bicentennial Committee—and held public meetings on how the town was to be symbolized

“It was a positive and engaging process,” Eke said.

With support by the organizations behind him, he said, the next question was – when is an appropriate time to unveil the new image?

It was Tony Chisholm a volunteer with the 1812 Bicentennial committee who suggested the flag be unveiled on the exact anniversary of the town’s burning 200 years ago.

Eke agreed. “We thought this was a fitting date to introduce a symbol of hope and promise given the devastation that occurred exactly 200 years to the day, the burning of our town. From ashes comes rebirth and hope.”

Spence described the new flag and coat of arms as a “knockout job and is something that every resident in Niagara-on-the-Lake can be proud of.”

Following the official proclamation ceremony, there was a procession to the front of the Court House to officially raise the flag, led by the Fort George Fife & Drum Corps and completed by an honour guard from the 809 Newark Squadron Air Cadets.

The procession then continued on to St. Mark’s Church for a special service commemorating the Burning of Niagara.

Joining the unveiling were town residents, members of the 1812 Bicentennial Committee and Friends of Fort George in period dress, Couns .Jamie King, Jim Collard, Gary Zalepa Jr. and Maria Bau-Coote.

In his presentation, Spence explained that before the creation of the Canadian Heraldic Authority in 1988, Canadians wishing to obtain a legally granted coat of arms had to apply to one of the two heraldic offices in the United Kingdom: either the College of Arms in London, or if of Scottish descent, to the Court of the Lord Lyon in Edinburgh.


Fact Box:

Symbolism of the Armorial Bearings of the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake

Arms: The colours refer to the Royal Union Flag.

Mace, a gilt wood object dating from 1792, indicates that Niagara-on-the-Lake, known then as Newark, was the first capital of the province of Upper Canada.

Maple leaf coronets further this allusion and indicate the town’s Canadian identity.

Crest: Brock’s Monument is an important local landmark, commemorating the Battle of Queenston Heights in 1812.

Motto: This existing town motto alludes to the local fruit industry.

Supporters: Lions were used with the town’s previous arms adopted c. 1970. The ribbons around their necks are the colour associated with Butler’s Rangers, who settled in the Niagara area following the American Revolutionary War. Gorgets were worn by British Army officers until 1830, and the one on the lion thus alludes to the regiment’s leader, Captain John Butler, who farmed in Niagara and is buried in the town.

The other lion wears a medal as a reference to the medals bearing the King’s effigy given to First Nations chiefs in recognition of their alliance with the Crown, and acknowledges the support of the First Nations during the War of 1812, which helped to build a peaceful foundation in the area for the years to follow.

The 1707 design of the Royal Union Flag is used as a symbol of Loyalist heritage and recalls the United Empire Loyalists who settled what is now Niagara-on-the-Lake.

The stylized water represents Lake Ontario and the Niagara River, and the base pays tribute to the importance of the local fruit and wine industries.


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