An upside-down Canadian flag flies on the bumper of a vehicle parked on Wellington Street during a protest against COVID-19 restrictions and mandates in Ottawa, on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

An upside-down Canadian flag flies on the bumper of a vehicle parked on Wellington Street during a protest against COVID-19 restrictions and mandates in Ottawa, on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Viewpoint: Canada’s flag yet to represent a nation sensitive, tolerant and compassionate towards all

In Plain View by Lachlan Labere

George Stanley could never have imagined the ways in which his symbol for our nation would be used.

Our iconic Canadian flag was designed by Stanley after Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson promised in 1963 there would be a new national flag created in time for the 1967 centennial celebrations. Stanley’s flag was made official and first flown on Feb. 15, 1967.

“May the land over which this new flag flies remain united in freedom and justice… sensitive, tolerant and compassionate towards all,” said Pearson to the crowd gathered for the occasion.

These were words to aspire to, as historically Canada showed a tragic lack of sensitivity, tolerance and compassion on a number of fronts (treatment of Indigenous peoples and creation of residential schools, Chinese railroad workers, Ukrainian and Japanese internment camps are some examples).

Not long after its adoption, the flag was sewn on the backpacks of people travelling abroad. During the Vietnam War it was preferable to be identified as Canadian than it was a resident of the U.S. That to me said something positive about the flag and how the rest of the world viewed Canada as a country.

In 2021, the Canadian flag was kept at half mast in Salmon Arm and across the country on Canada Day after the remains of 215 children were found buried at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

Read more: Letter: Dos and don’ts for displaying the Canadian flag

Read more: Canada’s flag was flown for first time 55 years ago today

Recently, the Canadian flag and vulgar variations of it have been displayed in every which way by people protesting pandemic-related mandates as a form of oppression. For many, such far-from-unifying displays have been disrespectful, both of the flag and of democracy.

There is actually proper etiquette to displaying the Canadian flag. It must be flown either horizontally, or vertically with the top of the leaf pointing to the left. The flag should not be written on or marked in any way. (See the above ‘Read more’ links for more.)

Unfortunately, the flag has sunk far lower than half mast courtesy of the modern marketplace, where you can find it on pretty much anything you can imagine. The seemingly endless list includes toilet seat covers, sex toys, medical masks, door mats, underwear, beer can cozies, knives, cloth diapers, belt buckles, coffee mugs, dog coats, electrical outlet covers, beach towels and so much more. You can also have Canadian flags made up for you with additional imagery, such as a picture of your dog wrapped in its own Canadian flag.

I can’t imagine the estate of George Stanley receives a dime from any of this.

While I am grateful to be Canadian, I am reluctant to get hung up on the flag. What’s more important is the work still needed for residents of this nation to become united in freedom and justice… sensitive, tolerant and compassionate towards all.


lachlan@saobserver.net
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