The 25th Anniversary Of The Canadian Flag

Article No: 41

The 25th Anniversary Of The Canadian Flag
Yarmouth Vanguard, Tuesday, October 10, 1989

Next year, even in a few months, it will be the 25th anniversary of the Canadian Flag. The Canadians had to wait all that time, up to February of 1965, for an official flag. After the definite conquest of Canada by England, each Province made use of the Union Jack. This lasted up to the time that the present Canadian system of government was established, under the British North America Act of 1867, when the Provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario became a State under the name of the Dominion of Canada, in the British Commonwealth of Nations, after which six other Provinces joined the Confederation.

By then came into use, although not officially, what was known as the Canadian Red Ensign. It consisted of a red background, with the design of the Union Jack at the upper right corner or staff side, opposite of which, but more centralized, was the Coat of Arms of Canada.

These conditions prevailed for close to a century, during which Canada, although an independent State, stayed united with the British Crown by allegiance. But its autonomy was restrained to interior matters. The United Kingdom took care of exterior affairs, regarding other Nations.

By the Treaty of Westminster of 1931, Canada acquired a status equal to that of England, such that it was to govern itself and deal with other Nations at will. In other words, it was no more a Dominion, but, just as England, a Nation fully independent. Although it is not said in writing that Canada is a kingdom, just as England is a kingdom, just the same it has a monarch, the King or Queen of England, just as England itself has, at its head, this same King or Queen.

Being a Nation fully independent, Canada had to have its own distinctive flag. It took 34 years before it was established. February 15, 1965, the Canadian Red Ensign was replaced by the National Flag of Canada, which is in the words of the Royal Proclamation authorizing it: "A red flag of the proportions two by length and one by width, containing in its centre a white square of the width of the flag. Bearing a single red maple leaf, or, in heraldic terms, described as `gules on a Canadian pale argent a maple leaf of the first'".

White and red, the colors of the flag, are the colors for Canada. They were so declared and appointed officially by King George V on November 21, 1921, in a proclamation of Canada's Coat of Arms recommended to His Majesty by the Canadian Government.

The maple leaf has long been emblematic of Canada. It was looked upon as a fit emblem for Canadians as early as 1700, if not before. Maple leaves were used widely by Canadians for decorative purposes in Toronto and elsewhere when the Prince of Wales visited Canada in 1860. Eight years later, they appeared in the Coat of Arms granted by Queen Victoria to Ontario and Quebec, and in 1912, a similar sprig of maple leaves was used as the distinctively Canadian Symbol in the new Coat of Arms mentioned above.

It will be noticed that the ethnic question had nothing to do with the choice of the National Flag of Canada. As a matter of fact, when it was established, on 42.8 percent of Canada's population was of British origin.

With regard to the etiquette for flying the Canadian flag, there are guidelines which have to be followed, which may change at times. For example, it used to be prescribed that the flag had to be flown only in daylight hours, being raised at sunrise and lowered at sunset. This rule does not hold anymore, as it can be left flying during the night.

There is a rule which is not always observed, requiring the Canadian flag and that of another country or that of a province to be flown on separate staffs. When the national flag is flown along with a second flag, the maple leaf flag occupies the staff on the left, from the viewpoint of the audience facing the flags. The two should be flown side by side and at the same height. They should also be of the same size. When three flags are flown, the national flag occupies the censure staff and the flag of the country being honored is on the left-hand staff, from the viewpoint of the audience facing the flag.

If the national flag is displayed on a staff laced on a stage or platform during a speech, it should be to the right of the speaker.

The national flag can be used as a drape only on a casket or in the unveiling of a monument. When a flag is flown half-mast, it should be hoisted first to the masthead, then lowered so that the centre of the flag should be exactly half-way down the staff.

It is asked that a flag which has become faded or worn be disposed of by burning, without ceremony.

These rules may sound meticulous to some people. It is to honor what the flag stands for. Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the U.S., once said: "The things that the flag stands for were created by the experience of a great people. Everything that it stands for was written by their lives. The flag is the embodiment not of sentiments, but of history. It represents the experiences made by men and women, the experiences of those who do and live under that flag."

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