Whether paraded by a victorious Olympian, stitched on the backpack of a traveller, attached to the robotic arm of a space shuttle or draped over the casket of a soldier, the striking, red maple leaf Canadian flag is so prevalent, so generally revered, it seems impossible that its creation 50 years ago was fraught with controversy.
Debate in and out of Parliament got so ugly that the Toronto Star, in a series of articles by Peter C. Newman, dubbed it “The Great Flag Farce.”.
It was a time of rising political tension and public insurrection in Quebec, and Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson was determined to replace the Red Ensign with an instantly recognizable flag that proudly shouted a new, multicultural Canada to the world. Others saw a new flag as a sop to Quebec and passionately defended maintaining symbolic colonial ties to Britain.
Canada’s government had twice earlier tried to create a national flag and failed both times. But as the summer of 1964 approached, Pearson, heading a minority Liberal government, followed through with his intention to have a new flag in time for the country’s 1967 centennial.
Pearson’s political foil was Conservative opposition leader John Diefenbaker, an incisive, sometimes vicious orator. Diefenbaker favoured preserving the Red Ensign —even though it had never been officially sanctioned by Parliament — or a variation of it. The two leaders’ mutual loathing made the debate all the more fiery.
It was a fascinating, soul-searching episode in Canada’s history, a tumultuous time that led us to the flag flying across the country today.
With the 50th anniversary of the flag’s official birth on Feb. 15, 1965, we look back at that extraordinary era though a sampling of quotes and vignettes from interviews, newspaper accounts, parliamentary and historical records and the book Canada’s Flag, an in-depth telling of the flag story written by heraldry expert John Matheson, a Liberal MP at the time and Pearson’s point man on the project.
There was controversy from the moment Matheson (who died in 2013) and artist/heraldry expert Alan Beddoe (who passed away 1975) arrived at Pearson’s office early in 1964 to present some three-leaf designs that Matheson favoured.
Matheson: One Saturday morning I was invited to the prime minister’s office to show Mr. Pearson several triad designs — three red leaves on white — and I brought along Alan Beddoe with me. The prime minister studied the sketches produced. Then, without any prior advice or warning to me, Beddoe extracted from his briefcase another design, with vertical blue bars, which he handed to the prime minister saying: “Perhaps you would prefer this flag which conveys the message: From sea to sea.” Pearson, whose entire purpose was to strengthen national unity, was enchanted.
Margaret Beddoe Lawrence, Beddoe’s granddaughter: John Matheson was not pleased that my grandfather pulled this rabbit out of his hat and, in essence, blindsided Matheson. I think Matheson was a little chagrined that Pearson didn’t like his idea; he liked Alan Beddoe’s idea.
NDP MP ReidScott, the last surviving member of the parliamentary flag committee: Matheson was horrified that the artist produced a flag with two blue bars. Red and white were our national colours.
Beddoe on national television: Well, if you don’t like the blue bars, you can take a pair of scissors and cut them off.
Pearson, smitten with the Beddoe three-leaf design, then does something many considered political suicide. On May 17, 1964, he takes his flag proposal, dubbed the “Pearson Pennant,” to Winnipeg and a convention of the Royal Canadian Legion, a hard-core and hostile gathering of Red Ensign loyalists. An editorial in the Winnipeg Tribune accuses Pearson of action that could only produce “bitterness and even hatred. It would be difficult to imagine anything more divisive at the moment in Canada’s history than his apparent obsession to introduce a new flag.”
Pearson, between the boos and hisses of 2,000 conventioneers: I believe that a Canadian flag as distinctive as the maple leaf in the Legion badge will bring [Canadians from far-flung lands] closer to us of British stock and make us all better and more united Canadians . . . It’s quite clear tonight, there are others who disagree strongly, honestly and deeply with me . . . I believe most sincerely that it is time now for Canadians in the course of our national evolution to unfurl a flag that is truly distinctive and truly national in character, as Canadian as the Maple Leaf on your badge; a flag identified as Canada’s; a flag which cannot be mistaken for the emblem of any other country; a flag of the future which honours also the past; Canada’s own and only Canada’s.
Voice from the back: You’re selling Canada to the pea-soupers.
Diefenbaker, back in Ottawa, pens a memo: The Pearson flag is a meaningless flag. There is no recognition of history; no indication of the existence of French and English Canada; the partnership of the races; no acknowledgement of history. It is a flag without a past, without history, without honour and without pride.
Letter to Pearson from a Saskatchewan resident: I think you are a traitor to the Commonwealth and should be hauled up for treason . . . Why on earth were you given the Nobel Peace Prize, I’ll never know. Just what sort of Jekyll and Hyde complex have you got?
Matheson, on television, notes that the three leaves motif comes from the Red Ensign: Practically any change is difficult — it produces anguish. But when we examine what we have as our device, we see that we’re taking that 1/48th part of the Canadian Red Ensign that said “Canada” and that is, in effect, becoming the flag of Canada . . . I think they’re going to have a very difficult time in arguing against what has been the tradition of this country, legally, for something like 96 years.
The PM pushes on and, according to a Toronto Star report, a test flight of Pearson’s Pennant on Parliament Hill on June 12 almost leads to a donnybrook. Harold Winch, an NDP MP, tries to pull the flag down. Two French-Canadian members then begin arguing with him and they almost comes to blows. Winch starts making a speech and the Quebeckers burst into song to drown him out. The parties entrench.
The NDP holds a press conference to endorse a single-leaf flag that Scott has been pushing. The Créditistes favour a red-and-white flag divided in half diagonally with a green maple leaf in the middle. A Conservative member compares Pearson to Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, “trying to force the country to accept his personal choice for a flag.”
In the midst of this divide, on June 15, 1964, Government Order No. 44 is introduced, asking Parliament to “take such steps as may be necessary to establish officially as the flag of Canada a flag embodying the emblem proclaimed by His Majesty King George V on November 21 — three maple leaves conjoined on one stem — in the colours red and white then designated for Canada, the red leaves occupying a field of white between sections of blue on the edges of the flag and also provide that the royal union flag, generally known as the Union Jack, may continue to be flown as a symbol of Canadian membership in the Commonwealth of Nations and our Allegiance to the Crown.”
Pearson, opening the debate: Mr. Speaker, it is for this generation, for this Parliament, to give . . . us all a common flag; a Canadian flag which, while bringing together but rising above the landmarks and milestones of the past, will say proudly to the world and to the future: “I stand for Canada.”
Diefenbaker: The prime minister says he is bringing about unity in this country. I say to him that by this action — and the apologetic manner was apparent throughout his speech today — he realized he has caused to this nation cleavages and fissures and separations that more than a generation of people will come to recall.
Scott: What followed, and I couldn’t believe my ears, was one of the longest, most bitter debates in the entire history of the Canadian Parliament. It was a loony bin.
Matheson: The flag debate dragged out throughout the long hot summer of 1964 . . . Besides being dull at times, the debate was positively depressing with its bitterness and rancor. Of a total of 278 speeches delivered at all the stages of the great flag debate, 195 were delivered by 92 Conservatives. Forty-one Tories from the prairies outdid all the other parties together. The spite against, almost hatred of, Quebec was painfully evident . . . As this terrible debate rumbled on, one had the impression that a poisonous national boil had been lanced and was being drained drop by drop.
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Scott: One man one night challenged another member to a duel, which I thought was a wonderful idea and I wrote them both a note saying I’ll referee it. We can meet tomorrow morning on the lawn. You bring the pistolas and I’ll hit the ground. I figured if we could get all of Parliament to participate, we’d get through the speakers much quicker.
Red Kelly, a Liberal MP who also played for the Maple Leafs: I had three or four meetings with [Leafs’ owner] Mr. Conn Smythe. He wrote every member in the House because he wanted the Ensign. He told me that he fought over there . . . he got wounded and he fought for the Red Ensign — Canada – and he didn’t want that changed. When I’d go to the House, I’d hear all the stories of how the Canadian soldiers were recognized by the maple leaf on their lapel. So I’d come back and have another meeting with Mr. Smythe and I’d give him all the arguments that I’d heard in caucus. He listened. He didn’t have a rebuttal. Then a week or so later, I’d get a note to go see him and he’d have new arguments.
Stanley Knowles, NDP MP: This debate is ruining Parliament. The people are understandably beginning to treat us as an unimportant side show.
Terry Nugent, Conservative MP, addressing Commons: Have you ever tried to explain three maple leaves to an Eskimo who has never seen a tree?
Léon Balcer, Conservative member from Trois-Rivières, Que., on Sept. 9: The supporters of the three-maple-leaf flag are deluding themselves with the thought that their design will be adopted without closure . . . It is also delusional for the supporters of the Red Ensign to believe it can be maintained without resorting to endless filibuster . . . I am therefore suggesting the immediate appointment of a committee in order to determine the choice of a flag.
On Sept. 10, Pearson announces a flag committee, consisting of 15 MPs, seven Liberals, five Conservatives and one member each from the Social Credit, NDP and Ralliement des Créditistes parties. One of the Liberals, Herman Batten, chairs the committee and will only vote if there is a tie. The Edmonton Journal reports that a bouncing, smiling John Diefenbaker arrives in Fredericton the next day and jokes and dances with party faithful. He believes the three-leaf proposal is deadand the government is badly shaken.
Matheson: But to the Liberals it was clear that the hard battle was still on, only a new forum had been selected.
Scott: Everyone [in committee] sat looking at each other so I said, if no one else wants to speak, I have some suggestions . . . No. 1, the one option that is not available to us in any way at all is failure. We must succeed because if we don’t do it this time, nobody will have the courage to touch if for another 25 years and we’ll look even stupider than we already do. We’re 97 years old and we still don’t have a decent flag.
Matheson: In the worst possible circumstances of acrimony and mistrust, the government members of the committee (in minority) were expected to produce a result which had theretofore defied Canadian statesmanship for nearly a century. Diefenbaker believed that he would be able to use the committee’s failure to rout a wobbly government, so with a gun to our heads we were asked to produce a flag for Canada in six weeks!
Scott: The first thing we did was look at the [submitted] flags. We had approximately 5,000 flags of every shape and size. We had a real laugh; a lot of them were kind of nutty. The worst one I remember was a woman with a beaver on a leash and the face of Myrna Loy, the actress, on [the beaver]. A woman sent that in to be on the flag. I thought she needed to go to psychiatric ward. . . . Some of them had ducks running around in circles, dogs of all descriptions, animals. Some were constructive but most were a joke. It didn’t take us long to get rid of them.
The committee calls upon experts in history and heraldry and even artist A.Y. Jackson of the famed Group of Seven, who comes up with own three-leaf design with horizontal wavy blue lines signifying rivers rather than blue bars.
A.Y. Jackson: I don’t really want to push my design. The Government has apparently decided on a flag — although it’s not a very good one. We had to decide on an emblem or an abstract design such as a tri-colour, and there’s so many of those it’s hard to get a distinctive flag. We have no animal — the beaver looks like a rat — and so the maple leaf seems best.
The idea of a single-leaf Canadian flag was part of the public discussion long before the formal flag debate, and a single leaf had often previously been used to symbolize Canada. However, George Stanley, the dean of arts at the Royal Military College in Kingston, is widely credited with creating the prototype for our current flag. A memo Stanley sent to Matheson dated March 23, 1964, outlines what he believes are the requirements for Canada’s flag, and he concludes with a couple of crude sketches, one of which bears a striking resemblance to our current flag.
Matheson: I particularly recall standing beside George Stanley (sometime in March) and looking up at the Royal Military College flag flapping furiously from the Mackenzie Building, one of the college’s buildings in Kingston. This flag had three vertical pales, red-white-red, with the college crest (a mailed fist holding three maple leaves) on the white centre pale. We had just emerged from the college mess and Dr. Stanley remarked, “There, John, is your flag.” Interpreting him literally I remarked that Canadians would not accept a mailed fist symbol. He said, “No, I mean with a red maple leaf in place of the College Crest.” It was an interesting proposal that I kept very much to myself, but pondered from time to time.
John Blackwell, George Stanley’s son-in-law: I call that the eureka moment.
There is, however, contention as to how that single-leaf flag came to be the committee’s recommendation. Matheson, in his book, says he started to believe the single-leaf option was the best one, but he had to convince others. He notes that fellow Liberal Grant Deachman then designed a voting strategy to ensure that was the recommendation put forth by the committee.
In a recent interview with the Star, Scott says he was the one pushing for the single-leaf flag and it was he who convinced the Liberals on the committee to back off Pearson’s three-leaf proposal and vote for the single-leaf design. That way, he says, the Conservatives would be tricked into voting for the same flag as the Liberals and independents, resulting in a unanimous vote.
Scott: We got it down to three flags through the process of elimination. It wasn’t hard. Nobody went for any of the junk flags.
Beddoe Lawrence: My grandfather did the artistic renderings of all the designs that were seriously being considered for the flag committee. There was one evening my father went to see him in his studio and asked what he was doing. He answered in a rather exasperated voice, “Now they want a single maple leaf with red borders.” My grandfather was not particularly excited about that design.
Matheson: The sketch went on the wall — but secretly and without any suggestion of my interest or support. Surrounding it were a series of other quite attractive designs.
Laurie Stanley-Blackwell, Stanley’s daughter: At the time, it was a bittersweet experience. My father was distressed by the backlash of those Canadian veterans who considered the new flag an outrageous betrayal of the Canadian Ensign and Union Jack. Some of the veterans accused my father of being a “traitor,” an unkind cut for someone who had himself fought in World War II. One of our dear family friends, whose porch was festooned with Union Jack flags, accosted my mother one day [and said], “I can’t believe Dr. Stanley would do something like that.” Some friendships were lost in the heat of the moment.
According to a Toronto Star report, the three remaining designs go to a committee vote. On the first ballot, a version of the Stanley-designed flag — but with a Union Jack in one upper corner and fleurs-de-lys in the other — is rejected nine to five, while both maple leaf designs move on. A vote is then taken to determine the committee’s preference between the design containing three leaves and that with one leaf. The single leaf triumphs 14 to zero; the Liberal/Scott strategy is a success.
Liberal committee member Deachman, in a story under his byline in the Ottawa Citizen: The Tories were thunderstruck. They were cross-eyed with bewilderment and terror . . . A reconfirming vote, which had previously been agreed upon, gave them an opportunity to beat a retreat. The vote was 10 to four. They had lost one of their members to the new national flag.
Scott: I told them that when this report hits the floor, all hell is going to break loose. You know it and I know it. But in the long run, we’re going to do the right thing. You’ve made history.
Matheson: The full committee then repaired to the “The Farm” at Kingsmere, Que., where a banquet appropriate to the great occasion was provided by the Speaker of the House. After adequate dining and much wining we persuaded Margaret Konantz [the only woman on the committee] to remove one of the dark curtains from the window and costume herself as a medium. We then besought, with the aid of her crystal ball, the spirit of Mackenzie King and his revered mother. We invoked a series of blessings by the spirits upon our efforts. We felt like battle veterans, well-bloodied. With the sweat of the Liberals and the tears of the Tories, something truly immense had been accomplished . . . I think Mackenzie King smiled.
Beddoe Lawrence: The Pearson Pennant was one of the three finalists the committee voted on and for it to not make the gold medal podium . . . I think my grandfather was crushed by that.
Artist A.J. Casson, also from the Group of Seven: [The proposed single-leaf flag] looks like some 6-year-old’s effort in kindergarten.
John Diefenbaker discussing the single-leaf flag on CBC television: [It] shows nothing of our heritage . . . it would be far from distinctive. As a matter of fact, it would be the Peruvian flag. At a distance of 100 yards, you wouldn’t know which was which. If we ever get that flag, we would have the Peruvians saluting it anyway.
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Scott: I’m damned if [the recommendation from the flag committee] didn’t start the whole debate over again. Diefenbaker was a tiger. He couldn’t believe this had happened to him.
While the single-leaf flag is the committee recommendation, the idea still needs refinement. Various experts are involved in elements such as proportions and colour selection, but it is Jacques St-Cyr, an artist working under Patrick Reid with the Canadian Government Exhibition Commission, who is credited with creating the striking red leaf, reducing the number of points on it from 13 to 11.
Matheson: In the period before the second debate on the flag in the House of Commons, I occupied myself with research for a stylized maple leaf appropriate for the flag . . . There were approximately 16 distinguishable varieties [of maples] . . . I selected the hard sugar maple tree as the desired species because not only did it have a handsome leaf but also this tree had been familiar to the Indians, the Habitants, and the United Empire Loyalists, for whom it produced furniture, food and fuel. Most important, the leaf was visually familiar to all Canadians . . . It was selected after I had studied its performance under varying velocities in the National Research Laboratory wind tunnel . . .
Rick Archbold, flag historian and author of A Flag for Canada, in an interview: Jacques St-Cyr perfected the leaf, which was a brilliant piece of simplification of the sugar maple leaf, which no one had ever come up with before.
Blackwell: In the end, all Jacques St-Cyr did was take two points off the 13-point maple leaf in the middle and stylize it a little more, make it less a literal maple leaf so it would fly better and be more recognizable in the wind.
There are varying accounts of what unfolds on the evening of Friday, Nov. 6. One version has it that Reid and Matheson swing into action because Pearson wants to take a prototype flag to his residence at Harrington Lake to see how it looks in a breeze. Reid and Matheson scramble to find bunting to make flags and have the material silkscreened.
Bob Harper, who spent hundreds of hours interviewing and researching Matheson: The very first flag they tried to silkscreen was what became our maple leaf flag. The silkscreening turned out horribly. The ink ran and it wasn’t the right colour, so they set that piece aside and did the three prototypes. In the meantime, that piece of cloth dried and John folded it into six-inch squares and put it in the pocket of his suit. That actual flag, which I classify as the first Canadian flag produced, is in the archives at Queen’s University.
It’s uncertain how many and which designs are prepared that night, but one is Canada’s future flag. There is one hitch: finishing touches need to be sewn. Ken Donovan, assistant purchasing chief for the Department of Trade and Commerce in Ottawa, suggests Joan O’Malley, his 20-year-old daughter, could help.
O’Malley: I was just doing my father a favour, not participating in history. Let me tell you, I don’t think of myself as the Betsy Ross type. And sewing the flag was not easy. I was no professional — I had just sewed some of my clothes before this. My sewing machine wasn’t made for such heavy material. But eventually, the flag came together. At the time, it wasn’t the best way I could think of to spend a Friday night. In fact, my father was more excited than I was about the whole thing — he was the one who got to deliver the prototypes to Mr. Pearson’s house.
Pearson gives his approval to the stylized single-leaf flag, but debate roils again in the House of Commons, with some Conservatives breaking ranks.
Conservative MP Léon Balcer, on Dec. 9, 1964, invites the Liberals to invoke closure: It was becoming a farce. This debate has lasted for weeks and months. Every kind of opinion that could have been expressed on the Canadian flag has been expressed and I think the government should have the courage to stand up and impose closure.
Scott: If Diefenbaker had a gun, I think he would have shot Balcer. That was the breaking point. I think we were all glad it was over.
Still, Diefenbaker is pushing for a national vote..
Matheson addressing the House: On the flag committee we struggled hard to find a strong and distinctive flag which represented a fresh approach. For a moment, indeed, we achieved unanimity — and then we discovered that the Leader of the Opposition was even more contemptuous and scathing than he had been before. I think it is quite impossible to please this angry man.
Diefenbaker, Dec. 10: Are we as Canadians to have a flag which treats our memories, our past sacrifices, all the milestones of greatness as irrelevancies? Let Canadians have an opportunity of saying what they want. That is the fight we fought. It is the fight we are continuing to fight. Had it not been for us, you would have the design which is now disavowed . . . I make this last appeal: Do not tear down in this nation the whole history of our past.
Pearson wrapping up a lengthy, emotional address on Dec. 11: I appeal for a decision now . . . I ask the Leader of the Opposition, a privy councillor, a former prime minister, a dominant parliamentary figure for many years, if the decision of Parliament is to support the recommendations of this committee, to join us in saluting Canada’s new maple leaf flag. I ask him to help us rally a united Parliament behind that flag if this is the decision of Parliament, as it is raised high to fly over Canadians who honour their past and respect their traditions, Canadians who also face the future in confidence and faith, in unity and in strength, and who wish to face that future under their own national symbols.
Matheson: Pearson sat down drained of all his strength. The applause in the chamber was deafening. There were actually many damp eyes . . . As the desk-thumping continued, we all watched the tall figure of John Diefenbaker standing erect, like a proud eagle. The period of awaiting silence was like an eternity . . . Had he been persuaded?
Diefenbaker: In all that speech . . . [Pearson] was unable to make one argument to support the stand that those people sitting opposite, the government of today, had any mandate from the Canadian people to bring about a flag under which no vestige of the Union Jack is to appear . . . He puts up the old argument that we who oppose this are therefore opposed to Quebec. That argument I hurl back at him and into his teeth.
Matheson: Even Diefenbaker’s enemies felt embarrassed. Doubtless he was under the influence of overpowering emotion. His performance before a crowded press gallery was masochistic and suicidal. He seemed bent upon self-destruction.
Paul Martineau, Conservative MP addressing the House on Dec. 14: During the course of this debate, many hard and bitter words have been spoken that it would have been better to have left unsaid. It is useless, futile and, I feel, mischievous to try at this stage to assess blame in this chamber or elsewhere. But the truth remains — and it is a bitter truth — that the embers of hatred and prejudice have been fanned, and if they should continue uncontrolled they could very well lead to disaster and to the end of our nation. That is why this afternoon, I approved and voted for the extreme measure that is closure; because I am firmly convinced that the continuance of this debate at this stage, after it has given rise throughout the land to so many utterances born of prejudices and hatred, could only achieve its normal course, the very destruction of this country.
Toronto Star’s Peter C. Newman: [It was] the best speech of the entire debate.
Diefenbaker, referring to Pearson, in the House on Dec. 14: The Right Hon. gentleman has done everything to divide this country.
Pearson, responding: Will the Right Hon. gentleman contain himself for two or three minutes longer and then we will vote.
Diefenbaker: When the Right Hon. gentleman starts giving me advice, I say to him, you have done more to divide Canada than any other prime minister.
Pearson: . . . I was trying to say that this is a good flag, and it is Canada’s flag, an emblem of which we and our children can be proud and under which Canada can go forward, this red maple leaf flag. Surely, Mr. Speaker, when the dust of controversy clears away, when the bitterness of debate is over, we can all in the House rally around the red maple leaf Canadian flag. I know the atmosphere does not appear very propitious across the chamber for appeals, but I make an appeal at this late date in the debate. I appeal for us all to forget divisions and differences of this debate and to rally behind this red maple leaf Canadian flag.
Diefenbaker: He is telling us the wonders of the red-maple-leaf flag. When did he change his mind, after saying the three-maple-leaf flag represented our heritage, and the one maple leaf had none?
Pearson: We submitted this matter, at the request of the Right Hon. gentleman, to a committee representing all parties in the House. The committee did not see fit, by a majority vote, to accept the design I preferred . . . Why cannot my Right Hon. friend forget the passions, the prejudices and the bitterness of the fights of the past few months and rally around this Canadian flag and make it the emblem of unity in this country?
Diefenbaker: A flag by closure; imposed by closure.
At 2:15 a.m. on Dec. 15, the members of the 26th Parliament, having approved the new flag in a vote of 163 for and 78 against, rise and sing “O Canada” and “God Save the Queen.” Three members, overcome with despair, remain glued to their seats. Two months later, the flag was officially raised in Ottawa.
Matheson: Monday, 15 February 1965, in Ottawa was damp, cold and gray, but for many it was a day set apart from all other days, for it was the day on which the proclamation signed by the Queen respecting the new Canadian flag took effect, at the stroke of noon.
Stanley-Blackwell: On the day of the official flag raising in Ottawa there was a death threat against my father. For that reason, on the advice of the RCMP, my parents decided to leave their children at home. So, I lost out on witnessing an epic moment in Canadian history
Scott: The Red Ensign was pulled down for the last time and the new flag went up and just as it got to the top, a breeze came across the lawn and blew it out. It was beautiful, just beautiful. Everyone was crying.
Red Kelly: This is a great flag. You know it’s Canada. There’s no question.
Scott: Diefenbaker was far removed. He was wailing among his cohorts. He wouldn’t even participate in the official party. He had his own gang out and he was in tears at not getting the Red Ensign. Everyone else was in tears at getting a good flag.
Pearson, ending his address at the flag-raising ceremony: Under this flag may our youth find new inspiration for loyalty to Canada; for a patriotism based not on any mean or narrow nationalism, but on the deep and equal pride that all Canadians will feel for every part of this good land. God bless our flag! And God bless Canada!
Canadian Flag Essay
Throughout Canada in the 20th Century, numerous events and decisions have formed defining moments for the people of this country. Events like Vimy Ridge, the formation of NATO, and the development of the new flag have made a huge impact on the country. In addition, the leadership of people like Lester B. Pearson and, much earlier, Sir Wilfred Laurier, has created very significant changes in the course of Canada’s history. Of these, the new flag, sometimes referred to as the “maple leaf” is not only a true symbol of Canada but shows how Canadians have learned a new way to be loyal to our land. The flag, now flown around the world, is the result of a political process that began in 1925, when Canada was symbolized by the Canadian Red Ensign and the Union Jack. Because of citizens’ concerns, the two World Wars, and the changing relationship of Canadians to Britain, the new flag was just the right idea at the time of its introduction. Because British-Canadian relations were changing, and people wanted to show more patriotic loyalty for Canada’s success during the two World Wars, the Prime Minister, Lester B. Person, took action on changing the flag. Even though there was a six-month debate, because so many people opposed the new flag, Canadians came to realize that Canada is better off without anyone else’s symbols representing them.
The maple leaf began to serve Canada as a symbol as early as the 1700’s. Some people made the effort to use maple leaves to represent themselves, for example soldiers, athletes, workers, or businesspersons. During the Celebration of the Centennial of Confederation, in 1967, everyone bought flags from small to extra large. This indicated that people of Canada were very happy to show their happiness in living on this land. Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson once said, “I want to add, ladies and gentlemen, that while I am concerned about this whole question of national symbols, national anthem, national flag, and all they mean to our country. I am ever more concerned with making Canada the kind of country- with freedom, economic security, social justice, and opportunity for all, over which we will all be proud to have our flag fly” (I stand for Canada 4). The famous Prime Minister understood from the beginning that this flag would finally show that Canadians would be proud of who they are. On Canada day, which was known as Dominion Day, citizens carried the flag, painted it on their faces, and demonstrated patriotic pride. Everyday, in Canada, people use the flag to show pleasure about the country they live in.
The flag also marked a change in Canada’s relationship with Britain and the British Empire. Over the history of Canada, the contact with England had been very strong.
Whatever the British promoted, Canada was always there to be a supporter. During World War I, as soon as Britain declared war, Canada automatically joined forces. Canada did not have a say in going on war, but what could control...
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