Travels with Myself

A Journal of Discovery and Transition
Doug Jordan, Author

22-11. ‘My Story, Mostly’ Extract: The Flag

Here’s another extract from my current project, ‘My Story, Mostly’. As it happens, some of my followers have expressed interested in ‘My Story’, so I figured I’d offer some advance glimpses in this blog. Mostly the quirky parts.

‘My Story, Mostly’ is not written in the traditional biographical chronological format, more thematic, but this excerpt is taken from the chapter, The Teenage Years (13 – 16), in this case, ‘The Flag’.

In 1964 Canada was struggling emotionally with what was called the Great Canadian Flag Debate. To that point Canada didn’t have its own national flag, though the Canadian Red Ensign generally served the purpose. 

(Interestingly the provincial flag of Ontario is still the Red Ensign with the Union Jack in the upper left corner except with the Ontario Coat of Arms in the bottom right quadrant rather than the Canadian Coat of Arms.) Many British Loyalists preferred that the Ensign be adopted as the permanent national flag but there was a lot of pressure to come up with a unique Canadian flag that distanced itself from the Union Jack/British connection, especially as Canada’s Centennial was fast approaching in 1967. 

Even though only a 15-year-old self-absorbed teenager, I had become politically interested and got caught up in this national debate. My instinctive preference was the Red Ensign, mostly because, as a Canadian of anglo heritage[1], indoctrinated with British history and pageantry, I liked the Union Jack and its inclusion in the Ensign. For some reason though I also liked the colour azure blue to be found in the RCAF version of the Ensign. 

The Prime Minister at the time, Lester B. (‘Mike’[2]) Pearson, had a design in mind but in true Canadian fashion a Parliamentary Committee was formed, contests were launched, and a number of designs came forward. The design preferred by Pearson, dubbed the Pearson Pennant, involved two narrow bands of blue on each end of the flag (to signify the Atlantic and Pacific coasts) and a sprig of three red maple leaves (maple being one of the national symbols of Canada[3]) in the white background in the middle, the three leaves signifying the founding peoples of the nation: Indigenous, French and British. 

In any event, I liked this new Pearson Pennant and I urged my mother to make my/our preferred variant of the blue borders flag so we could fly it and thus show our preference. She cut up a white bedsheet. She dyed two panels light blue and sewed them to the ends of the white middle; she traced and cut two pieces in the form of the maple leaf sprig, dyed them red and sewed them on both sides of the white background. We then fastened this flag to a pole and affixed the pole to the end of our dock at the cottage. I was very proud of the statement we were making. You could see that flag from anywhere across small Mud Lake, and a beacon for boating home. 

I wonder what ever happened[4] to that flag.

Doug Jordan, reporting to you from Kanata, Canada. © Douglas Jordan & AFS Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of these blogs and newsletters may be reproduced without the express permission of the author and/or the publisher, except upon payment of a small royalty, 5¢. 

[1] Interestingly, in those days, there were no hyphenated Canadians, except French-Canadians.

[2] Why Mike? It was as a pilot that he received the nickname of ‘Mike’, given to him by a flight instructor who felt that ‘Lester’ was too mild a name for an airman: “That’s a sissy’s name. You’re Mike,” the instructor said. Thereafter, Pearson would use the name ‘Lester’ on official documents and in public life, but was always addressed as ‘Mike’ by friends and family. (Wikipedia)

[3] And if that doesn’t get your jingoistic blood boiling, how about that other Canadian national symbol, the industrious rodent, the beaver.

[4] As it turned out, the divided Conservatives, and Pearson!, were out-maneuvered and Parliament adopted the Red Maple Leaf flag we have today. The political fallout was that the single red flag was also adopted as the Liberal Party of Canada logo.

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