Jan. 23, 2003
The book "I Stand for Canada" which was reviewed by Lincoln Cho in January Magazine is an admirable piece of work, accomplished in an amazing amount of time, less than a year. Having contributed to the book, we have concerns regarding the author's portrayal of our Unity Flag. But mainly, we have found some significant blind spots which questions its "fullness", as Mr. Cho states in his review, which readers may find interesting. Here are our comments to the authors and editors:
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, December 16, 2002 11:11 PM
Subject: I Stand for Canada
Well we picked up a copy of the book that you have been working on and we can't say that we are very pleased how you have portrayed the Unity Flag pg. 160. We were not expecting your endorsement but at least a clear representation of what it stood for, leaving the reading public to judge for themselves. Instead the caption was biased with your own interpretation which does not do it justice.
The Unity Flag is portrayed as a protest flag instead of the evolution of our national emblem. Guess that
is the twist you wanted to associate with it. You never contacted us to ask any questions, you had just asked permission to use our flag in your book, which we gladly accepted.
To say that according to us, the Canadian flag has 2 strikes against it, is negative connotation towards our nation emblem which we do not promote, instead of just portraying the Unity flag as a symbol of French and English-speaking Canadians together, promoting unity and harmony. To mention that people have told us it is a Liberal flag, doesn't bear justice to our message, the Liberal flag issue is not what we are promoting, nor care about, that's other people's concerns. You did however correctly portray the Unity Flag as symbolizing the French fact in Canada, not just Quebec.
We expected much more from the publishers. You don't even mention the preferred flag of Canadians (red maple leaf with full blue borders) from the numerous polls conducted by major newspapers across Canada in 1964. You skimmed over it with barely a word about the public's preference.
As you are aware and have mentioned, there are a lot of stories and myths with regards to the creation of our National Emblem.
The book talks mostly about the 'behind the scenes' business by the flag committee but little from the other side of the fence, us Canadians who were very involved and anxious for our new flag. The co-author mentions how he was very impressed how our flag was created democratically and not through bloodshed as in some other countries, but if it were that democratic, we would have had full blue borders on our flag from the start, and the issue we are raising with the Unity flag, won't be a discussion at all.
We will check if there are any archives from the now defunct Montreal Star, which was Montreal's major newspaper in the 60's. They followed the flag debates and showed the more popular designs on a large page to get people's opinions. The heavy favorite was the single large red maple leaf with Pearson's endeared blue borders representing Canada from sea to sea. This opinion was echoed across Canada.
Mr. Diefenbaker knew the public was behind it and still trying to derail the flag's creation, refused to accept blue on the flag hoping Mr. Pearson would back down. These are the words of Paul T. Hellyer, who was a Cabinet Minister in the Liberal government. Mr. Hellyer is not mentioned in your acknowledgements so it appears he had not been contacted during your research. Mr. Hellyer still has all his wits about him and has come out of retirement to fight the American takeover of Canada. He can be reached at www.canadianactionparty.ca, based in Toronto.
Of course the red and white flag suited Mr. Matheson very well since he never wanted Pearson's blue in the flag. You only mentioned the preferred flag of Canadians, "The Flag That Never Was", with full blue borders, very briefly as if it were never even a consideration. Our flag came about from bickering between politicians, those who wanted a new flag and those who didn't. So much for democracy, it wasn't the peoples' choice at the time.
So convinced were we Canadians, that the flag with blue borders was to be our new flag, that Ottawa businessman Herb Gosewich and a partner, across the river in Aylmer, produced 200 of these new flags,
only to be stuck with them when the Liberals shocked everyone and went with red and white only. He eventually sold them all, to Canadians who had their hearts set on the blue borders (the red and white was not accepted immediately). Your book does not mention these Canadian-made flags at all, yet it was a real occurrence, more significant than the one mentioned about the Japanese-made flags with the 13 point maple leaf.
We can tell you honestly, that at the time, if the red and white flag were placed against the red maple leaf with blue borders, there would be no way in God's kingdom that Canadians would have voted for the red and white only. Still it was put through and we slowly embraced it.
Your whole book keeps mentioning that the new flag was to represent as much French Canada as English Canada, yet in the end, it fell short on this theme. Also surprising is Mr. Matheson impassioned article in an Ontario newspaper just before the '95 referendum, that stated "Canada needs Quebec for its soul", yet he still refuses to budge on the blue. We do respect Mr. Matheson as a true statesman, with all said and done.
Furthermore this statesman uttered one of the most meaningful and powerful statements upon the first raising of our Maple Leaf flag, yet your book completely missed it "Now that we have our very own flag, it is up to us to maintain it, and the day we stop maintaining it, is the day nobody cares anymore".
We spoke to Mr. Matheson on Feb. 15, 1995, for the 30th. anniversary of our Maple Leaf flag on Parliament Hill, and he confirmed that he did say that, but he insisted he did not mean adding blue to our flag. Evolution? The British did it to represent the Scots, why not us the French fact in Canada to promote unity and harmony?
Most major countries have altered, or maintained their flags for justifiable reasons. Following the language tensions which have developed, admittedly after the new flag was adopted, do we not have a justifiable cause adding a "Touch of Blue" to provide a stronger identity for the French fact in Canada, thereby instilling a greater pride and creating a stronger bond?
All this without losing our own identity and making our flag even more beautiful than it already is, while promoting unity, harmony and mutual respect.
We are not proposing to change the flag, simply, renewing it by recolouring it slightly. In black and white, the official Canadian flag and our Unity flag are practically undistinguishable, therefore no design change: clean, simple and symmetrical. But adding blue is as simple as putting French on our cereal boxes, nobody died from it, yet it does so much in showing mutual respect.
Also, dare we use such words as beautifying or embellishing a flag instead of the heraldic term defacing, when our flag is altered slightly, with all due respect to our national emblem. (Swaztikas, spray painting and burning are defacement, pure and simple, this is not the case here).
We see ourselves as Mr. John Heysel who showed leadership and took the bull by the horns on his cross country journey in 1959, to promote Canada's own flag. As Mr. Heysel, we are not affiliated to any political party nor are funded by anyone. He saw something that had to be done and he went out there to do it. Bravo!
And I, personally, may proudly say that the Unity flag was the only Canadian flag flying in the streets of Gatineau this October for the arrival of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II at the Museum of Civilization, for a state dinner that evening. The RCMP strongly advised me to go home because they could not guarantee my safety amid the hundred screaming separatists assembled to denounce Queen Elizabeth II setting foot on Quebec ground. But the Unity flag stood ground amid the vulgarities directed towards it in the 4 hours I was there, until the event was over. Where were all our other flag-waving Canadians? I will tell you though that, in the end, the Unity flag touched a soft spot on these separatists, as they started asking
questions about it and what progress was being made with it. It's worth analyzing this.
We suspect that the authors, being from English Canada, are not much in tune with the linguistic tensions existing in our society for the last 35 years, but it is a reality we endure in French Canada. Hence the extreme importance of promoting the Unity flag, not as an appeasement, but as recognition of a "distinct identity" (and all this without constitutional change to boot).
Your book quotes that "a flag is an identity". Heck, English Canada has already patriated the maple leaf from French Canada, must French Canada now accept England's former colours too? Colours that were
abandoned and handed down to Canada, when England went on to bigger and better things with their Jack. Also, colours that were forced on us by wrangling politicians. If there was stipulation that our new flag had to be red and white only, then all the proposed designs you show would have been red and white, but that wasn't the case. There was no such stipulation as long as red and white were present.
We will say, however, that your group did a remarkable job on this book to accomplish what you set out to do in such a short span of time. The information and documents you gathered were astonishing. However your story has a few significant blind spots, ones which were worth mentioning.
PS: Incidently, we believe that the picture of the mass production of Canadian Maple Leaf flags in a row, is from Canadiana and not Dominion Flags, as stated.