Sunday, February 15, 2015

50th Anniversary of the Canadian Flag

I remember backpacking in Europe in my 20's. I was sitting in a park in Brindisi, Italy waiting for my ferry to Greece. It was while sitting with a collection of young backpackers in transition travelling from here to there, that I met a young German woman.

As we were talking, she noticed the tattoo of the Canadian Maple Leaf I had on my lower ankle. I remember the look on her face when she told me that I was incredibly fortunate to be able to tattoo my country's flag on my body as a proud Canadian. She went on to tell me that as a German, she wouldn't feel comfortable doing that. Not because she wasn't proud of her country, but the judgement of others on her for being a proud German. It was crazy to me to think that the actions of the German government from her great-grandparents' generation formed that bias 6 decades earlier, and they still weren't free of that stigma.

That reminded me of today.

Today our Canadian flag is 50 years old. When I was born, our flag was only 7 years old. It actually surprises me to think my parents were born under a different flag, and we have former Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson to thank for his vision of uniting Canada under a common flag 50 years ago today.

It was a bold move by Pearson to change the flag from the old red ensign to the new Maple Leaf. There  was a lot of resistance from changing the old to incorporate something new. It was the unknown of the new, and the lost identity Canadians felt with their past tying them to the red ensign which created all of this backlash.

In fact, it was a much heated debate for 2 years leading to 50 years ago today, when the new Canadian Maple Leaf flew for the first time over the Parliament buildings. Some of the people I've talked to about that transition remember it was quite heated. We accept our flag as part of our heritage now, yet 50 years ago, this wasn't the case. In fact, the leader of the opposition, and former Prime Minister John Diefenbaker was adamantly opposed to the new flag. So much so, that when Diefenbaker passed away, he was buried under the old Canadian ensign. The old Conservative goes down against the Liberal and now 50 years later, very few people below the age of 50 even know what the ensign was.

                                                         Do you recognize this flag?

So 50 years ago today is a part of our heritage. Despite all the resistance against our new, united flag, we all are united in Lester B. Pearson's vision of a unified Canadian flag. So today, I am grateful for Pearson's stand in the face of fierce opposition for us today.

Thank you Lester B. Pearson, and Happy Flag Day, Canadians.

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