Home > Head of State, monarchy, queen, republic, Republique > Canada Republic: A valentine on Flag Day

Canada Republic: A valentine on Flag Day

By happy coincidence each year, Valentine’s Day cozies up next to Flag Day (Feb. 15), the anniversary of the Maple Leaf’s adoption in 1964. That’s appropriate, because both days are about love. On Valentine’s, our passions show with kisses, cards, and chocolate. On Flag Day—well, 47 years after it was born, we tend to repress public displays of affection for the flag, and that ought to change. We possess patriotic passion, but the day sees no pageants, parades, or nationwide flag raisings, and no songs sung about it. Then again, it is February, and in some places it’s reached the freezing point of nylon.

More distressing are rules that actually force the Maple Leaf from flagpoles. Last Canada Day, the governor general attended a ceremony in Gatineau, Quebec. As he arrived, the Maple Leaf was stripped from the flagpole, and his blue banner hoisted in its place. Later, he strode onto Parliament Hill, where the national flag was again taken down, this time from atop the Peace Tower, and his personal flag raised instead. This would be an insult any day, but on the First of July, in the capital no less, it was an affront to the nation we had gathered to celebrate. With all due respect, Mr. Johnston, your flag does not deserve to eclipse the Maple Leaf.

This wasn’t a one-off incident. Rules call for it to happen everywhere the governor general goes. The Maple Leaf might get moved to a secondary flagpole, but if there’s only one staff, the Canadian flag vanishes. It’s been happening since day one. On Feb. 15, 1965, the Maple Leaf could not be hoisted high at its own inaugural ceremony unless Governor General Georges Vanier left the Hill. (He did

And it’s not just the GG’s flag that trumps the Maple Leaf. The flags of every lieutenant governor in the country do the same. And—you may want to sit down for this—so does every flag of the royal family in Britain. That’s right, Canada. If 21-year-old Princess Eugenie visits, her flag outstrips the Maple Leaf by federal decree. But, no matter what you may think of her taste in hats, she isn’t to blame for this vexillological faux-pas. Ottawa is—the Canadian Heritage department, in particular.

Rideau Hall is home to the man whose banner routinely supplants the Canadian flag, and it’s also the base of the Canadian Heraldry Authority, with David Johnston its overseer. Despite that, his office avoids the flag issue, yielding to Heritage. Its minister, James Moore, says there are no plans to change the rules to put our flag at the top of the pecking order.

Moore’s stance is surprising, because he supports a bill by Toronto Conservative MP John Carmichael to make it illegal to prohibit flying the flag. Yet the government’s flag policy sometimes does just that—prohibits our flag from flying. If Carmichael’s bill passes, Moore may need to hire a boat to Tristan da Cuhna. Either that or strike the disgraceful protocol—easier, because no law is needed to do it.

Moore’s department actually added to the 25-odd flags which are mandated to make the Maple Leaf bow down. Ahead of Prince William’s visit last year, the government fashioned a flag for him. Not that he needed one. He already had a personal flag. They made one for Charles, too. Like William, Prince Charles already had one, but the government wanted “Canadian” banners, so they promptly copied half of the princes’ British flags—hardly sufficient ‘Can-con’ to make them unique (though enough for the CRTC)

Yet these hybrid pennants are officially deemed superior to the Canadian flag. When Charles visits New Brunswick, Ontario, and Saskatchewan later this year, it won’t be his English pennant that insults our flag, it will be his “Canadian” one. What progress. Let’s wake up. By all means, fly special flags, but national guidelines should never demote the Canadian flag.

Ottawa is the chief offender, but not the only one. In Quebec, provincial law puts the Fleurdelisé ahead of the Maple Leaf. In its justifiable zeal to remove the British flag from atop the Quebec parliament in 1948, the province went a step too far in 1999 by putting the provincial flag ahead of the national one.

Ours is indeed the Promised Land, one symbolized by a flag born of struggle and compromise. Where, once, royal banners of Europe claimed possessions, we rally to the colors of Canada. On Flag Day and beyond, let’s ensure edicts that would remove the Maple Leaf are themselves removed, and secure for our flag the same place on the flagpole it has in our hearts—first.

Wayne Adam

  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: