2015 is shaping up to be a memorable time for Canada. The year began with the commemoration of the bicentennial of the birth of our first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. As we proceed through the calendar we are looking forward to several occasions ranging from major sporting events like the Women's Wold Cup of Soccer and the Pan Am Games to the world-renowned Elvis Festival right here in Collingwood. Oh, and there's one more moment all Canadians should consider celebrating this year. SUNDAY FEBRUARY 15th is NATIONAL FLAG DAY - the 50th GOLDEN anniversary of our Red and White Maple Leaf Flag.
The flag is a symbol of our country's identity and unity. It represents the pride and hopes of a people who share the grandeur of our magnificent geography, our bountiful resources, as well as our rich racial, religious and cultural diversity through a common set of beliefs and values.
Even though Canada's flag is officially only 50 years old, we have experienced a rich and varied flag history. So, as we mark our flag's Big 5-O, it is worth taking a look back at how we got here from there. Following the earliest colonial times lead by British and French explorers like John Cabot (St. George's Cross) and Jacques Cartier (Fleur-de-lis), the Royal Union Flag (Union Jack) was flown over British North America (Canada) even after Confederation. Then our flag story becomes quite convoluted. Around 1870 various forms of the Canadian Red Ensign based on the British Merchant Marine Red Ensign with designs featuring the Union Jack and a shield bearing provincial coats of arms or seals were used as Canada's unofficial flag. In 1921, the composite shield was replaced with what is known as the Canadian Coat of Arms. 1945 brought in the approval of The Ensign to be flown on federal buildings within Canada until a new national flag was adopted. All the while the Union Jack remained our only official national flag. By 1957 the colour of the maple leaves on The Red Ensign's Coat of Arms was changed from green to red. And finally by early 1965, after receiving Royal assent, Canada adopted the Red and White Maple Leaf Flag as our official symbol.
Over the past half century, we have truly come to identify ourselves through our flag. It seems to be everywhere: on public buildings, private homes, on our backpacks when traveling overseas, lapel pins and shoulder patches on the uniforms of our military.
The Red and White Maple Leaf is uniquely ours. Like many ultimately good things in Canada it came to be as the result of political compromise. The final design by George F. G. Stanley, inspired by the flag of the Royal Military College, is an eleven-point maple leaf on a field of white, with two red bars signifying a country which spans the continent. In recognition of the traditional colours of both Britain and France, Red and White had been proclaimed the official colours of Canada by King George V in 1921. Many historians date the use of the maple leaf as the primary symbol of Canada back to around 1700. Alexander Muir composed the iconic song The Maple Leaf Forever for Canada's Confederation year. It became our national song for decades, and remains a favourite to this day.
Over the years since February 15th 1965 there have been many attempts to declare Flag Day a national statutory holiday. This of course has not as yet come to be. However, since National Flag Day falls on a Sunday during the Family Day holiday weekend here in Ontario this year, this brings us to one simple question. What will you be doing to celebrate our GOLDEN FLAG Day? We at mycollingwood.ca have a suggestion. After you finish with your regular weekend activities, why not gather up your friends and family, especially the kids, and head on over to the main hall in your town or city. Just before 12:00 noon will be ideal. Be sure to bring along a printout of this article for every person in your group. If there doesn't seem to be any town or city official there, take the lead yourself as MC for a most special Flag Day ceremony. Now while it is not nearly as famous and by no means as official as the American Pledge of Allegiance to the Stars and Stripes, we invite your group to join in and recite the following: THE PLEDGE TO THE CANADIAN FLAG.
"TO MY FLAG, AND TO THE COUNTRY IT REPRESENTS, I PLEDGE RESPECT AND LOYALTY.
WAVE WITH PRIDE FROM SEA TO SEA AND WITHIN YOUR FOLDS, KEEP US EVER UNITED.
BE FOR ALL A SYMBOL OF LOVE, FREEDOM, AND JUSTICE.
GOD KEEP OUR FLAG, GOD PROTECT OUR CANADA."
Written by John Hanlon for mycollingwood.ca