It was on this day in 1964 that the Canadian Parliament voted to end the debate on the new design for the national flag, effectively making the current "Maple Leaf" flag official and replacing the older Canadian Red Ensign. It was a hotly debated issue by Canadian standards and although the vast majority accept and love the Maple Leaf there are still those who prefer the Red Ensign. The fact that the issue ever came up at all, however, says alot about the national trend in what was once called the Dominion of Canada. Speaking for myself, it is hard to imagine a sizeable group in any country wishing to change their national flag. The Red Ensign had long been recognized as the Canadian flag and it presided over the movement of Canada to independence and it was the flag Canadian troops fought under in both World Wars. However, rising liberal trends in Canada brought a reaction against the Canadian Red Ensign which they accused of being "too British", "too colonial" and not representative of the new multi-cultural Canada.
Part of this was an effort to appease the increasingly powerful movement of the French Canadians in Quebec toward talk of secession. Obviously if the design was to quiet such talk by the French Canadians the new Maple Leaf design did not work out as hoped. However, beyond that the primary criticism of the Red Ensign was that it reminded everyone of the late British Empire. My response to that would be a simple, "so what?!" The British Empire was one of the least oppressive and most humane and beneficial colonial organizations in the history of the world. There were unsavory instances to be sure but the British Empire brought security, stability, economic progress and representative government to vast tracts of the world, producing a number of the most advanced, free and prosperous independent countries in the world today. Moreover, if not for the Canadian ties with Great Britain the "Great White North" would most likely be part of the United States today which tried to incorporate Canada into their own union during the American War for Independence and the War of 1812. I see no reason why Canadians should not be proud of their past membership in the British Empire. In any event, changing the flag does not change history.
Allow me to also say that, while I would prefer the Red Ensign, I have no problem with the current Canadian flag and find it a very attractive design. However, I consider the issue important, still, because many of the same arguments made against the Red Ensign back in the 60's are being used today by the annoying collection of Canadian republicans who would like to see the Canadian monarchy go the way of the original Canadian national flag. Like the old flag, the monarchy is and always will be associated with Great Britain, always a reminder of the days when Canada was part of the British Empire but, also like the Red Ensign, the Canadian monarchy is also uniquely Canadian; a symbol not only of where the country came from and what it was but also what it is and the most significant difference between Canada and her closest neighbor. So, it is not simply that the flag was changed which I find disturbing (as I said, I like the new design just find) but it is the reason behind it and the trend represented by the change. Canadians should be proud of their history, their flag -both old and new, and of their form of government as well as of their own Canadian monarchy.
God Save the Queen of Canada!