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 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.
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.