It’s not a holiday, we don’t get a day off for it but Feb. 15 it is an important part of our Canadian heritage. This past Sunday Canadians recognized the 44th anniversary of the official Canadian flag.
The Canadian flag has been a longtime symbol of the country and is something men, women and children have respected and loved since its introduction.
The creation of the Canadian flag was a delicate and long process. In 1925 a committee of the Privy Council began to look for and research possible designs for a flag that would represent the whole country. But, this work by the committee was never actually finished.
The flag ideas began to pick up again in 1946 and another committee took on the task of creating a Canadian flag. A select parliamentary committee was appointed and asked for submissions for the flag, receiving more than 2,600. Even with this great response, the Parliament of Canada was never came together to vote on the submitted designs.
The ball began rolling in 1964 when Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson expressed in the House of Commons that the government was looking to adopt a unique national flag.
With the 1967 Centennial celebration of confederation approaching, there was greater motivation for a distinct flag for the country. The Senate and the House of Commons Committee was formed and Canada was asking for more submissions and ideas.
In October of 1964 the committees worked through the submissions and narrowed it down to three ideas. There was the Red Ensign with the fleur-de-lis and the Union Jack, a design using three red maple leaves, and a red flag with a single, stylized red maple leaf on a white square.
The creation of our flag was a joined effort between Jaques St-Cyr, who stylized the maple leaf, George Best, who suggested the dimensions of red and white, and Dr. Gunter Wyszchi, who came up with the precise shade of red for the flag.
Credit for the flag is attributed to Pearson, John Matheson, who established the framework for the flag and helped create it, and Dr. George Stanley who presented the cncepts of the red white red stripes with a maple leaf in the centre.
The long awaited Canadian flag was introduced to thousands of Canadians at an official ceremony on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb. 15, 1965 with Pearson, Governor General Georges Vanier and members of the cabinet in attendance.
At the ceremony, at noon, the Canadian Red Ensign, with the Union Jack and the shield of the royal arms of Canada was lowered. The new maple leaf flag was raised and the crowd sang the national anthem, the royal anthem and God Save the Queen.
The Honourable Maurice Bourget , Speaker of the Senate, spoke these words, giving greater meaning to the flag and highlighting what it means to be Canadian.
“The flag is the symbol of the nation’s unity, for it, beyond any doubt, represents all the citizens of Canada without distinction of race, language, belief or opinion.”
This is what Canada is known for around the world. The Canadian flag represents this to other countries and people around the globe. It is a strong symbol of peace, unity and freedom and is a welcomed flag in other countries.
On a backpacking trip to Europe this message was obvious. Sporting a Canadian flag on my rucksack, I was immediately recognized as a Canadian and welcomed freely everywhere. The people I met wanted to know about Canada, its history, geography, politics, etc. The flag is such a positive symbol that I even came across some American travelers that were wearing the Canadian flag so that people wouldn’t snub them as American tourists.
The symbolism is very powerful and respected and recognized all over the world. Its vibrant history, introduction and meaning is something Canadians should be proud of and think about every time the flag is raised and O Canada is sung. We have such a great country, it is huge, diverse, democratic and a rich country. These great things should be celebrated by Canadians and promoted to the world.