Fifty years ago, the maple leaf was raised to the top of the Peace Tower in Ottawa as Canada’s new flag.

“It means our freedom,” said Bracebridge resident Eric Gonneau of the flag. “It means our liberty.”

Communities around the country celebrated on Sunday.

“To me, it represents what Canada’s all about,” said Bracebridge Deputy Mayor Rick Maloney. “A respectful, diverse, accepting, and peaceful nation.”

Thousands of designs were submitted and it sparked a cross-country debate before the maple leaf was chosen.

“I remember submitting a flag,” said The Flag Store’s Ceilia Burke, who was seven years old at the time.

The new flag also transformed her family business when some people criticised and expressed concern about the printed flag would fade from red to pink.

“My father, who was an upholster with a sewing machine, said we can sew these flags as opposed to printing it,” said Burke.

Governor General David Johnston says the maple leaf represents Canadian values at home and abroad.

He unveiled a commemorative $3 coin and a stamp to mark the importance of the milestone.

“It dared Canadians to build a country worthy of that flag,” he said. “A country that is smart, caring, peaceful, prosperous, inclusive, and fair. A country that strives continually for justice, for equality, and for excellence.”