COLUMN: Canada’s icon turns 50


Youtube video from British Pathé

by Phillip Blancher
SOUTH DUNDAS — 50 years ago today the Canadian Flag, as we know it, became official. How ironically Canadian that there is understated fan-fare for today’s anniversary, but there should be.

The story of how John Matheson, a Member of Parliament from Brockville, Ontario, and Dr. George Stanley designed what became our country’s flag has already been told in many other outlets, but it bears repeating.

In 1964, Matheson was appointed to a committee by then Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson to look at a replacement for the Red Ensign, variations of which had been used as early as the year after Confederation. The flag though had never been adopted by the country formally. Legally, we did not have a flag until 1965, almost 100 years after the act of unity that brought Canada into being.

It’s been well published about the debate over competing designs, colours, layouts, and symbols. The one consistent element of all of the designs was a maple leaf. Matheson’s last-minute design suggestion, the flag we celebrate now, was inspired by the flag of the Royal Military College in Kingston.

Our flag is THE quintessentially Canadian design. A maple leaf, and two bars. Red, on white. Simple, like most memorable designs from the 1960’s, and instantly recognizable. The flag has become the premier symbol of Canada. Not grandiose like some superpowers, nor busy; nor boring either. Any country can put three bars of different colours on fabric and call it a flag. Same with a bunch of stripes or stars.

The beauty of the Canadian flag, is what it embodies, recognition. Wear that flag on your backpack in another country, people know where you are from without question. It is the ultimate branding message, something that Fortune 500 companies drool over. Instant brand recognition (love that buzz phrase). People around the globe equate the Canadian Flag with a set of ideals, freedom, fairness, and just overall nice people.

It is a flag to be proud of, in our typically understated, Canadian, way.

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