Canadian Holidays: FLAG DAY David Watts 3 July 2003
February 15 is Canada’s newest national holiday—on the calendar but not yet a day off from school or work.
On that day in 1965 Canada’s red Maple Leaf flag was first raised to fly over the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa.
Canadians had flown other flags before, including at least three versions of the Red Ensign that was taken down that day.
But these earlier flags had been the banners of the French and British interests that settled us, or our attempts to express who we are in the framework of those traditions.
The new flag represented a new beginning. Though the symbols of our European founders remain on our coat of arms, our national flag has nothing that can be confused with any other nation.
A single maple leaf with only eleven points on a white background with bars at the end.
Easy to recognize hanging limp or in the wind: Canada’s colours, red and white, chosen in 1921.
Lester Pearson gave us the Canada Pension Plan, Health Care and an international reputation as a peacekeeper. But Maryon Pearson said the new flag was her husband’s greatest legacy.
Gaining Parliamentary approval for the flag was not easy. Many, including Canada’s military veterans—and Pearson was one himself—had strong ties to the old flags they’d fought under.
Two thousand designs were studied by a committee through three hundred days of debate.
Some people were embarrassed by all time and argument it took to come to an agreement.
Debates like that are bound to happen in a democratic country on topics where people have strong opinions. We can be thankful that Canada’s flag was born in a war of words and not of weapons.
The design finally chosen was one of the simplest. Historian and Lieutenant Governor George Stanley, who suggested it, wanted something that school children could draw easily.
It was Canada’s children who adopted the new flag. Some of their elders had gone to their graves wrapped in the old flags. But young and new Canadians took the red and white maple leaf to their hearts, sewed it on backpacks and painted it on their bodies for games, concerts and celebrations.
And the day we remember it … may someday become as big a winter holiday as our summer one.
(add: committee process, gust of wind at first raising)