What Mattea Roach, John Ralston Saul and More Say the Canadian Flag Means
“May the land over which this new flag flies remain united in freedom and justice; a land of decent God-fearing people; just and generous in all his dealings; sensitive, tolerant and compassionate towards all men. — Lester B. Pearson
The former Prime Minister of Canada certainly had high hopes for this country’s new sign, as it was officially adopted in 1965.
The red maple leaf and its white and red background was a marked departure for a nation seeking to emerge from the shadow of Great Britain and its Union Jack, including the Canadian Red Ensign. The symbol was controversial from its inception, with some balking at the idea of a Canadian flag incorporating no British element.
Today, the controversy over Canada’s national identity continues for a variety of reasons that nonetheless relate to the themes of freedom, justice and equity that Pearson spoke of.
As the Star’s Steve McKinley writes, there is an uphill battle for the heart of this country, and the maple leaf is at the center of it.
The Star has asked a number of writers and prominent Canadians to put into words what they believe the flag symbolizes, at a time when this country is taking hesitant steps towards reconciliation, in the face of the kind of fierce polarization shown by « freedom convoys » and as nation-building myths are being thoroughly re-examined.
* There are, in the eyes of Haroon Siddiqui, many reasons to find hope in this great experience that is Canada. Read his point of view here.
* Recent Canadian « Jeopardy! » champion Mattea Roach takes a darker view, writing that the Canada we live in is a far cry from the mythical nation she was raised to believe in. His piece is here.
* For someone whose homeland is ravaged by war, writes Maria Reva, the flag of Canada evokes a culture and its subtle refusal to share a suffering that seems distant. This is his point of view.
*There was, in fact, a blank canvas quality to our flag that allowed it to hold a lot of things, writes John Ralston Saul. The truckers of the « freedom convoy » took advantage of this. His essay is here.
* But while these truckers may wrap themselves in the Canadian flag, writes author Stephen March, their rage does not entitle them to our country’s symbol. Here is his assessment.
* In the mind of George Elliott Clarke, the dark history of the Canadian state—some of which is only revealed today—reminds us that nationalist icons like the flag don’t move many of us. These are his thoughts.
*Kimberly Murray, Special Contact for Residential School Graves, says the flag represents an opportunity for her to face Canada’s past, including grim discoveries, and make meaningful change. Read his point of view here.
* How do you reconcile the hatred that flowed beneath that maple leaf with the inspiring Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples who shaped this country, is a question explored by Poet Laureate Albert Dumont. His poignant take is here.
*As a child of immigrants, you grow up with the Canadian myth that your parents believe, or choose to believe, writes author Junie Désil, before discovering the truth for yourself. She details her experience here.