03 January 2004

The Maple Leaf Flag

For Christmas I received a colourful and informative book, I Stand for Canada: The Story of the Maple Leaf Flag, written by Rick Archbold. It tells the story of how this country gained its own flag, beginning with Canada's historic association with the maple leaf in the 19th century up to the adoption of the current flag in 1965. Had I been a part of the flag debate in the early 1960s, I would probably have opted for the proposal floated by the so-called heraldic purists, Col. Archer Fortescue Duguid and John Matheson, consisting of the traditional symbol of three red maple leaves joined at a single stem, but without the blue side stripes shown below:

I cannot imagine that I would have joined John Diefenbaker's rearguard effort to maintain the old red ensign.

Printed in the book is Alexander Muir's 19th-century anthem, "The Maple Leaf Forever." At the beginning of the 21st century it is difficult to understand why anyone would have thought this an appropriate anthem for a country boasting such a large proportion of francophone citizens. Several years ago the CBC sponsored a competition to provide new, less obviously divisive lyrics for this song, and the winning entry was written by Vladimir Radian, who included verses in French and English. Still, the new "Maple Leaf Forever" is not likely to supplant "O Canada" as the official anthem.

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