Wednesday, April 13, 2011

We're a young country but our flag is still younger.

I can remember when Canada didn't have the bright red maple leaf as the national flag. It was February 15th, 1965, when the Maple Leaf was first raised above Parliament Hill.

In the beginning, it was tough going for the little flag. A lot of folk were quite happy with Canada's de facto national flags. That's right, flags plural.

One flag often flown was the Canadian Red Ensign. This was a British Red Ensign with a Canadian shield in the fly (the right-hand half).

As a child, I can recall waving a stiff-fabric red ensign when Queen Elizabeth visited Brantford, Ontario. Many Canadians had memories attached to that flag. For those folk, it was tough saying good-bye.

The other flag that served as Canada's official national flag was the British Union Jack. The Union Jack often flew over government buildings as well as government-related facilities such as RCMP camps and military forts.

When the Maple Leaf was first flown, I know of one one high school teacher who told his students that the new Maple Leaf design was better suited to decorating beer bottles. He went on to argue that there were parts of Canada that didn't have maple trees. He was disgusted and wore his disgust with wounded pride.

But Prime Minister Lester Pearson bravely broke with the past and gave Canada a fresh, new flag. It was a gutsy move. Today, I believe, you'd have a difficult time finding many who'd want either the Union Jack or the Canadian Red Ensign in place of our beloved Maple Leaf.

If you'd like to know more about the history of Canada's flag, please check out The Canadian Maple Leaf Flag site.

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