|The date: Monday, February 15, 1965. A large crowd of dignitaries including the Governor General, the Prime Minister, other politicians and thousands of Canadians had gathered at the foot of Parliament Hill in our nation’s capitol. It seemed as though all those people were just standing around, looking up… W-a-a-y up! But they weren’t there waiting for the appearance of a celebrity character from a popular children’s TV show of the time. Nor were they there huddled together out in the|
cold to see a demonstration of fine aerobatics by members of our armed forces. All eyes were fixed on the pole atop the Peace Tower to be witness to a moment in history. They had come to be part of the official inauguration of The National Flag of Canada.
Just before 12:00 noon, the flag Canadians had known for generations as the Red Ensign was lowered and replaced by the now very familiar red and white Maple Leaf. Tuesday, February 15th is Flag Day. Our flag will be 46 years old.
The first raising of our country’s new emblem was the culmination of a period with much animated discussion and often quite bitter political debate. Prime Minister Lester Pearson first proposed the idea of a new national symbol for Canada a few years earlier and eventually set up a special committee of Parliament to consider the plan. The Red Ensign had increasingly come to be regarded as a symbol of colonial times, and not relevant in a modern, vibrant society.
The design of our new flag turned into a contest of sorts. Many suggestions were submitted to the special House of Commons committee. Finally, the design by Mr. George F. G. Stanley, inspired by the flag of The Royal Military College of Canada was adopted unanimously in late 1964. The red and white colours, in recognition of both English and French traditions, had been proclaimed by King George V back in 1921. Mr. Stanley’s design featured two red rectangular borders signifying a country stretching from sea to sea, with the iconic symbol of Canada, a single eleven-point red maple leaf on a field of white. Why a maple leaf? Well, it has served as a symbol of our country from as early as 1700. And in 1867 Alexander Muir wrote what has come to be known as Canada’s confederation song “The Maple Leaf Forever”.
It is a bit of a sore point among many Canadians that Flag Day has yet to be declared a full national statutory holiday here in this country. Nevertheless, on the 30th anniversary of our Maple Leaf Flag, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien issued a proclamation. “The flag belongs to all Canadians. It is an emblem we all share… The maple leaf flag pays homage to our geography, reflects the grandeur of our history and represents our national identity… Let us be proud of our flag! Let us recognize how privileged we are to live in Canada, this magnificent country that encompasses our history, our hopes, our future.”
What will you be doing to celebrate Flag Day? Many will pause a few extra moments as they pass by and see our flag on many buildings and private homes. Just like on Canada Day, some others will wear Maple Leaf Flag pins. Many schools will hold special lessons about the Canadian national flag. And even though it is not as famous as The Pledge of Allegiance by our American neighbours, some may even recite 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 T Hanlon