Love our Maple Leaf

I’ve been flag-watching since the Sochi Olympics opened and though it is impossible to contain my bias, I love the clean, simple freshness of our Canadian flag and its uniqueness.
The Maple Leaf conjures up any number of concepts for me: our vast natural wilderness, what I think of as French Canada’s maple syrup, and the points of the leaf representing our diverse history.
Every country is proud of its flag, without question, and probably spends very little time considering its creation. Some flags are cluttered and busy, others almost blank, but our flag stands out like no other (there’s that bias speaking again).
I remember colouring the “Union Jack” in early grades, learning to get the reds and blues in the right place and feeling very little connection to that flag, as if it was merely on loan to us—a stand-in; that a country very far away flew its flag over us.
A positive connection, for sure, and a historic one. But still, it wasn’t our own.
The Maple Leaf first felt the wind in its fibres on Feb. 15, 1965. I remember the occasion and I remember the excitement I felt—almost like Canada was brand new again. And then to celebrate our centennial with our own flag was a really huge deal.
What I don’t remember is the battle between then Liberal prime minister Lester B. Pearson and former Conservative PM John Diefenbaker.
In 1963, Pearson decided to take another stab at finding a flag for Canada. He was disturbed by the fact that we didn’t have our own flag during World War II and the only way to tell a Canadian soldier from other soldiers of the Commonwealth were the Maple Leaf badges Canadian soldiers wore.
A flag for Canada became Pearson’s mission. Who would have thought creating a flag for a country that had been without its own flag for 96 years would consume 37 days in Parliamentary debate?
Hard to imagine. And we are puzzled by the fact we can’t achieve world peace.
The committee drawn up to choose a flag for Canada settled on a design created by George Stanley (the dean of Arts of Royal Military College) and with the input of J.R. Matheson.
The choice seemed obvious in that the Maple Leaf had been considered the emblem of Canadian people since 1836, and our red Maple Leaf was settled on.
There are rules about flying Canada’s flag. It must be on its own pole and must not be lower or inferior to other flags.
When I see a tattered and torn Maple Leaf waving in a backyard, I wince and feel our flag has been disrespected.
I am tempted to buy a new crisp flag and leave it on their doorstep (I have done so on several occasions, anonymously).
The world boasts flags of almost every colour. I found a flag book at the library that had many stories to tell.
I remember a flag in the room of a Hungarian man who worked on our farm when I was very little. His flag had a hole in the middle of it—an act of rebellion now I realize, but I remember a certain sadness about him, a Hungarian refugee, and I understand better now where his pain came from.
His flag, despite being “injured,” was precious to him; his only link to his country.
The Canadian flag is waving proudly at Sochi. We (as I write this) are at the top of the medal standings and each time I see our flag climb up the pole for a medal presentation, I am moved—and even moreso when I see supporters clutching their flags with pride.
When Lester B. Pearson watched the new flag wave at its inaugural celebration in 1965, he said: “Under this flag may our youth find new inspiration for loyalty to Canada; for a patriotism based not on any mean or narrow nationalism, but on the deep and equal pride that all Canadians will feel for every part of this good land.”
Well said.
wendistewart@live.ca

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