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Flags have been used from the earliest times to identify individuals and groups. The Canadian Armed Forces uses flags for signalling and as a means of identification for individuals, ships, the location of headquarters or boundaries of a command, formation, branch or unit. Many flags have their beginnings representing individuals or groups eventually evolving to represent the state or organizations within the state including the military.

The Canadian Forces Ensign represents the whole Canadian Armed Forces. It may also be used to identify the location of the Chief of Defence staff.