The only place the Vancouver Island flag flew before the late ’80s was under the radar.
Though it was authorized by Queen Victoria in 1865, the Island flag didn’t exist until over 100 years later, when Michael F. Halleran, at the time a student at the University of British Columbia, took it from history books to Victoria flagpoles.
“I am interested in flags and symbolism and things like that, and I very much identify with the Island,” he said. “What I found in my research is that in 1865, the British Government had decided to regularize the identity of government vessels [so] the government of each colony should have an identifying flag.”
And while a badge was commissioned for Vancouver Island, it had never actually been produced on a flag. Vancouver Island was annexed by British Columbia shortly after the symbol’s creation.
So Halleran, using elements from the Great Seal of the Island Colony, created a flag for Vancouver Island – over 100 years since it was ordered by the United Kingdom.
The flag features a defaced Blue Ensign – with a Union flag in the canton and a white disk with various symbols representing some of the pillars of the Island in the Victorian era, and for the most part, today.
The beaver – sitting upon a small island amidst water – represents the colony’s early connection to the Hudson’s Bay Company. The Trident of Neptune, crossed with Caduceus – representing commerce – symbolizes oceans, fisheries and trade. Halleran said the pine cone, floating above all the other symbols, is a representation of the forest and lumber industry.
Halleran took the design to a print shop in 1988.
“They made me [a flag] from the image,” he said, adding that media attention of his creation led to an explosion of interest in the more than century-old flag.
“What happened is it immediately caused a flood of inquiries about obtaining one,” he recalled. “Very soon, they were mass produced and you can buy them in any size.”
“There has been a longstanding question of identity and pride in the Island identity,” he added. “If it hadn’t taken off it would have just been a curiosity. As it was, it became very popular.”
Halleran noted that he has no copyright claim on the design, saying if the copyright goes to anyone, “it’s the Crown.”
Halleran, now 75 and retired, went on to teach history before a career as a public servant.
Today, the Vancouver Island flag can be spotted around the Island and Victoria, including outside of Chateau Victoria.