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When Newfoundland got a first look at its new flag in 1980

In 1980, Newfoundlanders got a look at a new flag that would soon fly in their province. It wasn't love at first sight for everyone.

Some thought it was 'not bad,' while others wanted to stick with the Union Jack

First look at the N.L. flag

Digital Archives

41 years ago
1:36
In 1980, Newfoundlanders get a look at their new flag. 1:36

In 1980, Newfoundlanders got a look at a new flag that would soon fly in their province.

The newly unfurled four-colour flag designed by N.L. artist Christopher Pratt was full of symbols that referred to many elements of the province's history and heritage.

And how did people feel about his proposed design, when it was unveiled in the House of Assembly on April 29, 1980?

"The immediate reaction of the politicians seemed favourable, but the average Newfoundlander, seeing it for the first time, seemed to have mixed feelings," reporter Rick Seaward told viewers on The National.

A woman in St. John's speaks to CBC about her reaction to the proposed new flag for Newfoundland in 1980. She didn't like it. (The National/CBC Archives)

"I don't like it," said a woman in St. John's who seemed to be struggling for something complimentary to say while she was on camera.

"The symbolism is grand, but I don't — it's just not eye-catching."

What about the Union Jack?

The Union Jack is seen flying above the Colonial Building in St. John's on May 6, 1910, the day King George V was proclaimed as the new king. (Library and Archives Canada/C-031534)

At least two people said they preferred the old Union Jack, which as Seaward reminded viewers was what was being replaced.

Others, however, liked what they saw.

"It's not too bad, I think it's pretty good," said a young man, standing in a plaza with a Sobeys grocery store in the background.

The woman above had a good first impression of the newly unveiled Newfoundland flag. (The National/CBC Archives)

The strongest compliment came from a woman in a leather jacket who praised its overall look.

"I like it," she said. "I think it's nice."

Seaward said it was the hope of the Newfoundland government to move swiftly and have the province adopt the new flag.

"The idea is to push through the necessary legislation before the House of Assembly adjourns for the summer," Seaward reported.

Pushback didn't stop flag's progress

And that's exactly what would happen, even though the governing Conservatives would have to deal with crosswinds on the flag issue.

Fighting the new flag

Digital Archives

41 years ago
1:47
Fighting over Newfoundland's flag continued in the spring of 1980. 1:47

In particular, the Newfoundland government faced pushback from the Opposition Liberals, as well as the local Royal Canadian Legion, as reported by The National on May 17, 1980.

Still, as the CBC's John McQuaker pointed out, Newfoundland Premier Brian Peckford said the ongoing opposition wouldn't stop the new flag from becoming a reality.

He was right: The flag was adopted by the province in June of 1980, and it has flown for almost four decades at this point.

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