Hon. Andrew Cardozo: Honourable senators, I am pleased to rise today on the occasion of National Flag of Canada Day.
This day marks the fifty-eighth anniversary of the Canadian flag bearing the maple leaf, and it is an opportunity to stop and reflect on what the flag means to Canadians.
Fifty-eight years ago today, the flag was first raised on Parliament Hill, on a temporary flagpole just to the left of the Peace Tower, in the presence of thousands of celebrating Canadians.
A new Canadian flag was a long-time ambition of former prime minister Lester B. Pearson — one that would be free of any colonial symbols, and that would help national unity.
Canadians enthusiastically participated in the work of a special House of Commons committee, and they sent in thousands of contributions and suggestions. They sent in drawings and paintings with everything: the beaver, the moose, the Mountie, prairies, mountains and, indeed, maple leaves. Through that participatory process, the red and white flag was developed.
The political debate lasted many months, and was one of the most raucous in Canadian history. Changing the flag was vigorously opposed by former opposition leader John Diefenbaker. But, to his credit, once the debate was over, Diefenbaker accepted the result and went with Pearson to Buckingham Palace to witness the Royal Assent by Queen Elizabeth II.
Since then, the flag has come to be a symbol of a modern united Canada, where we value equality, harmony and prosperity. Indeed, every new Canadian gets a small flag at their Canadian citizenship ceremony, and adopts it with the greatest of pride. The flag is recognized positively around the world.
While my preference today would have been to speak of this anniversary only in positive terms, I have to say that over the past year the Maple Leaf flag has been appropriated by those who oppose many basic Canadian values — those who believe that a few hundred people can arrive in our capital city and, by brute force and intimidation, replace the elected government. For some, the flag has come to be a symbol of opposition to the Canadian state and government; opposition to all vaccines, including measles and polio; and opposition to many values that we, normally, believe to be basic Canadian values.
Some folks even feel free to deface the flag with messages of hate and anger, and to use the Maple Leaf to replace the letter “u” in the F-word on their protest flags. I don’t believe that is what Parliament intended back in 1965.
And here’s a troubling trend: We know that too many fair‑minded, peaceful Canadians have taken down their flags on the front of their homes so they are not mistaken to be supporters of the angry mobs. This should not be happening.
Colleagues, it’s time for the Canadian flag to once again become a symbol of respect, equality and unity. Long live the Canadian flag.