John Ross Matheson

John Ross Matheson-1966

Involvement in the achievement of the Canadian Maple Leaf Flag

John Ross Matheson, OC CD QC (born November 14, 1917, passed away on  the morning of Friday December 27th, 2013) is a Canadian lawyer, judge, and politician who helped develop both the maple leaf flag and the Order of Canada.

He was first elected as a Liberal in the Ontario riding of Leeds in a by-election in 1961. He was re-elected in 1962, 1963, and 1965. He was defeated by 4 votes in 1968.
Matheson was a leading member of the multi-party parliamentary committee whose mandate was to select a new flag design. It was George F.G. Stanley’s idea that the new flag should be red and white, and that it should feature the single maple leaf. Matheson wrote a book, Canada’s Flag: A Search for a Country, about the creation of the new flag. “Near this Parade Square, in March 1964, while viewing the College Flag atop Mackenzie Building, Col the Hon. G.F.G Stanley, then Dean of Arts RMC, first suggested to Col. the Hon. J.R. Matheson, then MP for Leeds, that the RMC College Flag should form the basis of the National Flag. The two collaborated on a design which was ultimately approved by Parliament and by Royal Proclamation adopted as the National Flag of Canada as of the 15th of February 1965.”
Matheson also played an important role in the creation of the Order of Canada.
In 1968, he was appointed a judge of the Judicial District of Ottawa-Carleton. In 1984, he was appointed a judge of the County Court of Lanark. In 1985, he was appointed a judge of the District Court of Ontario. From 1990 to 1992, he was a justice of the Ontario Court of Justice (General Division).
Matheson was portrayed by Peter MacNeill in a Heritage Minute television commercial about his involvement in the Flag committee.


On behalf of the 50 Years of Our Flag Committee, our Chair, Robert Harper and his wife Susan offered our prayers and thoughts for every member of the Matheson family on Friday afternoon upon learning of John Ross Matheson’s passing.

“Without sounding too emotional, I feel I have lost a part of my heart with the news of John’s passing. I can only hope that what we have accomplished in the past few years combined with what we will accomplish in the next year will bring the Canadian people closer to understand the magnitude of what your Dad gave to his country.” ~ Robert J. Harper

The 50 Years of Our Flag Committee had worked closely with Mr. Matheson in our initiatives over the last few years and are honored to have shared this time with him as we bring awareness to our flag, Brockville, and the man, “Father of Our Flag”, John Ross Matheson. Our committee is preparing  for  50 Years of Flag Day, a  National Celebration in Brockville, “The Birthplace of the Canadian Flag” ,  February 15th, 2015.

These initiatives have included the naming of John Ross Matheson Way in front of Leeds County Courthouse in downtown Brockville where he was a lawyer and judge. A monument and flag dedicated to John Ross Matheson as “Father of The Canadian Flag” and Brockville as “The Birthplace of The Canadian Flag” near the 401 exit at North Augusta Road, located within viewing distance of John’s residence when he served as our member of parliament. The creation of “Celebrate Canada” a commissioned painting wrapped in scenes from across Canada, painted in the Tommy Thompson style by Brockvillian artist Phil Chadwick. John collaborated on the painting to ensure that the parliamentarians and individuals most responsible for the creation of the Canadian Flag where recognized on this Canadiana masterpiece. The painting will be unveiled as well as the book, “The Brockville Connection – Canada’s Flag” by Robert J. Harper, will released at a special event on Flag Day 2014. The book is  tells the story of our flag’s creation a labor of love and an unfailing determination to champion the truth about the Flag. The committee is working on several other initiatives “Fly More Flags” campaign, a commemorative stamp, and an educational initiative as we approach 50 Years of Flag day in 2015. One of John Ross Matheson’s final requests for our committee made on Nov 14th, the day before his 96th birthday was that we would pursue having Flag Day, February 15th recognized as a national holiday for Canada so that Canadian’s would be united from coast to coast and have a day to celebrate and reflect the day after Valentines the day of love, a quiet reflection of his own love for his country which he served faithfully all his life.