Flying 50 Years for Canada- Celebrating the National Flag

I was just 6 years old when Canada welcomed its first national flag in Feb. 1965.  Although Canada became an independent country on July 1, 1867, our previous flag was still a carryover as a former British colony, with the Union Jack. Yes, Canada’s flag is only 50 years old this year.

Flag flies from British Columbia ferry. Shelter Bay, in interior mountain region of British Columbia. Ferry to Nakasup and natural hot springs. May 2015. Photo by J.Chong
Flag flies from British Columbia ferry. Next to provincial flag of British Columbia. Shelter Bay, in interior mountain region of British Columbia. Ferry to Nakasup and natural hot springs. May 2015. Photo by J.Chong
Enjoying Canada Day at Granville Island. Vancouver BC. July 1, 2014.

Flag Enthusiasm Fused with Canada’s 100th Birthday: 1967
I was too young to have understood the intense debates among Canadians and politicians about which flag design best exemplified Canada.  But I do remember our national celebration in 1967, with a lot of new flag waving.   1967 was the centennial year-long celebration of Canada’s 100th birthday as an independent country.  At 8 years old, myself like many other children, did learn to recognize the image of Sir John A. MacDonald, Canada’s first prime minister and  the importance of the national railroad, one of several  national symbols  that united  and connected Canada’s daunting land mass and its people.  In school , I learned a song which the Ontario provincial government promoted on tv and through schoolchildren like myself:

Give us a place to stand, A place to grow:  Ontar-ari-ario  (Ontario)

The song’s spirit captured a growing province that extended to a growing Canada in the 1960’s  — optimistic and accommodating to immigrants.

Unwittingly Patriotic or Just Oblivious
So Canada’s red and white flag with its bold maple leaf, flapping and snapping in the wind, has always been flying  at the back of my mind.  The flag design out of many, to me, best exemplifies Canada – fresh, contemporary, easy to spot from a distance and emblematic for its tribute to a native tree species. A striking, clutter-free design is apt for Canada –a place where people have come to start life anew.

Canadian women’s speedskating team marvelling happily over their Olympic silver medal win –with home flag in tow. Winter 2010 Olympics, Vancouver BC. Photo by J.Chong
Flag autographed with different languages from visitors during 2010 Winter Olympics. Yaletown, Vancouver BC. Photo by J. Chong

I’m not necessarily patriotic. I’m just aware how fortunate life has been for me, to grow up and live in Canada all my life. Sure, living overseas would greatly expand my horizons. Somehow I don’t feel entirely cocooned since my first language is not English nor French, I’ve grown up in very poor, large family and have lived in different regions of Canada.   I never dreamt I would learn about certain local cultures that vary from region to region in Canada, which I’ve mused in Cycle Write Blog.

In fact, this entire blog is scattered with probably more posts than I care to count, where the Canadian flag is implanted in a picture or off in a corner. Kinda  embarrassing. This blog is waaay more Canadian than I realize.  So on July lst, our national holiday, Canada Day:   Happy Birthday Canada!  I’m looking forward to our 150th  birthday in 2017.

Below, is an unabashedly proud speech in Feb. 2015 by former Liberal Prime Minister of Canada, Jean Chretien about the flag.  He expresses gratitude to Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson  at that time (also from the Liberal party), who brought in the flag after many months of national  debate and speculation. Some veiled references to  political party changes in Canada since 1960’s and Canada’s diplomatic relations. The speech, regardless of party alliances, expresses in spirit, Canada genuinely as a multicultural society with strong support of several federal Prime Ministers in its history.

Below, how the flag design became accepted as it appears today.

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20 Comments Add yours

  1. Wow, Jean, I learned a LOT from this post! Sorry to have been so ignorant about Canadian history. Just like an American, right? At any rate, happy birthday, Canada!

    And just so you know. This summer I’m going on two-month RV trip with my nearing-ninety Godmother and her cat Pepe le Mew. I leave for the US in a week. The RV is huge, 37-feet. My Godmother will be driving and towing an SUV the entire way. She was a Flamenco dancer during her entire professional life. I’m going to try to blog about our trip and write a book about the 64 beautiful years she and my Godfather, a Venezuelan movie star (I kid you not!), were married, until Raul died last fall one month shy of his 97th birthday.

    Sorry to have been away so long!

    Hugs from Ecuador,
    Kathy

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Good to see you Kathryn. I’m sure you might help her drive the RV across the US. US is a big country and driving long distances can be tiring. No doubt, she has taught you some flamenco dance steps? 🙂 Look forward to seeing some blog travel adventures.

      Like

  2. What a great speech Jean, I have never heard it. I just remember how underplayed the birthday of our flag was. I think the govt spent $50k to celebrate it, perhaps underplayed because the liberals brought it in.. ❤
    Diana xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Well, Diana perhaps we shall find out in 2017 how much or how little celebration there will be for 150th Jul. 1st celebration. $50k is peanuts for a national celebration. More like an amount for a provincial based celebration. Most Canadians, who always are glad to be Canadians, don’t care which political party brought in the present flag. They just like the flag for what it symbolizes.

      Hope you have a great (if not also, hot) July 1st holiday. I remember the holiday for various years, more than Victoria Day.

      Like

      1. Thanks Jean, you too! ❤
        Diana xo

        Like

  3. Mabel Kwong says:

    Interesting history of the Canadian flag. No idea that Canada’s flag has gone through a few changes, and no idea that it used to have the Union Jack in the corner. When I look at the Canadian flag, I always had the impression that nature, forests and wooden products were abound in all it’s states, and that was what I thought the maple leaf represented.

    The Australia flag still has the Union Jack on it, and there’s certainly a great deal of mixed emotions about it along with the Aboriginal flag.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Logging on a wide scale, only happened in certain provinces. Not in the prairie provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba) where there’s just hardly any native forests. But yes, a huge part of Canada still remains uninhabited. So the maple leaf as evoking Nature in imagery is right. Some of our coins still have the image of the Queen Elizabeth II, that is if people use much coinage these days.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Lani says:

    Happy Birthday Canada! You are right, what a unique flag and a great country. Wish I was a Canadian citizen, but the US will have to do 😛 Either way, we are born lucky 🙂

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      By now, July 4th US national holiday, must be very far in your memory, Lani.

      Hope planning for Cambodia is working well.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. livelytwist says:

    Happy Canada day! Thanks Jean for sharing some historical facts about Canada. This statement struck a chord with me because I know a few immigrant families in Toronto and Calgary:

    A striking, clutter-free design is apt for Canada –a place where people have come to start life anew.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      The spirit of Canada and perhaps the expression of it, is abit different from the U.S. For starters, having a former Prime Minister deliver easily a speech, sprinkled with his mother tongue, French amongst English words.

      You nailed it, lively, on the bold, simple design that’s so appropriate. My parents as well as my partner’s parents, immigrated to Canada to throw off the cobwebs and burden of homeland historic problems, their parents’ expectations, etc. Of course, they probably didn’t anticipate how hard the adjustment to life would be in Canada for lst decade or so..

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Sue Slaght says:

    Jean another well researched and most informative post. Happy Canada Day!

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      My best for a great day to you, Sue. Back from Peru or still savouring the final days/hrs?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sue Slaght says:

        We flew home today Jean. All my best to you too!

        Like

  7. diahannreyes says:

    Had no idea Canada’s flag was so young! We used to visit up in Toronto a lot when I was younger.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      You must have had/still have relatives or friends up there. I lived and worked in Toronto for over 20 yrs. I moved out to Toronto to find a job after university.

      Like

      1. diahannreyes says:

        Yes. I have about 20 or so relatives up there still.

        Like

  8. I love all that red!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      I find the design of Canadian flag invigorating and contemporary.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. norma carlson says:

    By accident i found this site and would like to say ‘Thank you’. thank you for your comments. i was 20 when we finally got our own flag and so happy when it became official, because I am Canadian, as were my parents and on my mom’s side my grandparents, great grandparents, great great grandparents. In my hometown there were Canadians from every corner of the world, and yet it seemed we were a lower class citizens. Only that or those who were ‘British’ mattered. Yes there were fierce debates and more than a little animosity because of the bigotry that was rampant. (At least that was and still is my opinion). Thanks again eh, hope i haven’t spoken out of turn. This comment is a year late in coming, but maybe that’s okay too? Have an excellent summer 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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