Let Me Flag This for You

On February 15, 1965, Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson raised our newly inaugurated, maple-leaf-emblazoned Canadian flag with the invocation: “May the land over which this new flag flies remain united in freedom and justice… sensitive, tolerant and compassionate towards all.”  

As July 1 approaches, I cannot help but ponder an issue that troubles me: when did the Canadian flag cease to feel like it united all Canadians? 

Don’t get me wrong, I have no issue with our citizens enlisting the Canadian flag in support of their aims, this is a basic expression of their freedoms. What I am a bit dismayed by is the rest of us, myself included, shying away from displaying our flag as we presumably don’t want to be associated with any specific cause.

This has really come to matter to me. I wasn’t born in this country, but my father was and so, though born in the north of Scotland, my birth certificate confirms I am a Canadian born abroad, a Canadian by birth. My parents moved us all, themselves and my four siblings, to Fernie when I was four years old. They did so in hopes of providing a better life for the entire family, a courageous and ultimately justified decision. Canada has been good to our family. 

This was brought home to me when a friend, whom I had just picked up on her return from Britain, asked whether I identified more as British or Scottish. I reflexively responded that I identify as Canadian (I did however concede, and confess here, that as to my place of origin, I identified more with Scotland than the rest of the United Kingdom). 

At home, I have just ordered a new Canadian flag and flagpole to mount on the front of our house and with luck it will be here in time for July 1. I ordered it not because I am aligned with any cause, political party, or philosophy save the idea that I love this country and I am not afraid to show it. 

I would love to see us all fly our flag this Canada Day. I want us to get back to a time when together we saw our Maple Leaf flying in our school gyms, neighbours’ yards, town parades, and on passing vehicles and it didn’t engender any emotion but a profound pride in being Canadian. 

Canada is a great country, but all countries have their challenges, and like people, they have an opportunity to grow when they recognize that they have made mistakes in pursuit of an ideal. If the ideals of our nation include realizing Prime Minister Pearson’s invocation, then we will remain united in our desire for freedom and justice, sensitive, tolerant, and compassionate towards all, and we will be a stronger country for it. 

Let us collectively embrace our flag for all Canadians this Canada Day, this potent symbol of our Canadian identity, for a nation that, while not perfect, in my estimation has always tried to represent itself well at home and in the world.