Coming of Age with the Canadian Flag

By Carolyn Nesbitt-Larking

By the time the Canadian flag had its first official unveiling on Parliament Hill, February 15, 1965, I was two weeks old.

I don’t think there is any other symbol that binds citizens together as the flag of their country. Pulled out during major sporting events, or proudly hung marking jubilant anniversaries, and days of remembrances. It is the flag we turn to in public portrayals of national sentiment.

At its worst, flags are like tribal emblems, identifying and differentiating countries (and its inhabitants) from around the world, inciting feelings of friendship or foe, as though such mere pieces of cloth represent an entire national group.

But at its best, a flag becomes an outward symbol allowing citizens to project on to it what they consider relevant. That is why so many Canadians identify with the red and white maple leaf. And why people around the world feel a sense of kinship with anyone associated to it. We do not have a scripted pledge of allegiance to the flag, as our southern neighbours do. Instead, we go back to the words of then Governor General Major-General Georges Vanier, when he said:

“[it] will symbolize to each of us—and to the world—the unity of purpose and high resolve to which destiny beckons us.”

My identity has been formed under the gaze of the Canadian flag.

I have grown as a global outward looking citizen; interconnected with the rest of the world embraced in the qualities of inclusiveness, equality, and empathy.

There is a sense of pride among Canadians who go out in the world with the iconic maple leaf prominently displayed in one shape or another. We are immediately greeted with respect. And to be very “Un-Canadian” here for a moment, I can’t think of any other flag of a country that has such worldwide (popular) recognition. Let’s face it, the maple leaf is recognized and liked around the world.

It is my global statement of pride being able to say “I am Canadian.”

And, an iconic reference point that reinforces the following every day:

“…adopting a tree leaf as a symbol involves a huge responsibility — to be a lively country, one that evolves, flourishes and grows. A country as strong as it is welcoming, one that nurtures, protects and reassures, with a life force that nourishes all its inhabitants. A country that always seeks harmony between the beauty of nature and the greatness of civilization. A country of diverse and far-reaching roots and branches but with a common trunk, straight as a maple tree.” – Stephan Dion






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