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Maple Leaf flag campaign

For nearly a century Canada had no distinctive national flag. Each time Canadians suggested a new symbol to replace the Canadian Red Ensign, modelled after a British naval flag, there was controversy. Maple leaves, beavers, crosses, crowns — propositions that went nowhere. In 1964 Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson said he'd introduce a new national flag. But Opposition leader John Diefenbaker and the Royal Canadian Legion wanted to stick with the Red Ensign. Everyone had an opinion before Canada finally chose the red and white flag with the maple leaf.

The Native Sons of Canada launch a campaign for a distinctive national flag. It resurrects the debate among Canadians over what they'd like to see on their flag. Over the years, designers have submitted ideas, from elaborate silk and gold creations to cardboard cut-outs. Many designers use maple leaves and beavers, trying to avoid controversy associated with Britain's Union Jack and France's fleur-de-lys.

In a special report on the flag, CBC Newsmagazine host Norman DePoe talks to Native Sons of Canada's J. Picard, who says the best way to get recognition for a flag design is to fly it. He agrees with Liberal Party leader Lester B. Pearson who says if enough people fly the flag, the government will sanction it. In his recent flag campaign, Picard distributed about 5,000 miniatures of a new flag across the country.

Picard says his new flag - with a red and white background divided diagonally underneath a red maple leaf - will strengthen Canadian unity rather than draw upon British tradition. He doesn't like God Save the Queen, either. He says, "A nation's anthem is much like a man's wife. It's not to be shared with every Tom, Dick and Harry in the U.K."
. The Native Sons of Canada, a right-wing fraternal society founded in Winnipeg in April 1921 to foster Canadian nationalism, delivered a mini-version of its favoured flag design to every Canadian member of Parliament.
. In the 1700s some colonists used a beaver, representing the bustling fur trade economy, as a national symbol. When the trade fell off in the 19th century, the beaver emblem went with it.

. In 1836 Etienne Parent added a maple leaf to the masthead of his newspaper Le Canadien, claiming it was the symbol of Lower Canada.
. The fleur-de-lys didn't gain popularity as a proposed national flag design until the first decade of the 20th century. Great Britain replaced New France's commonly-flown fleur-de-lys after the Conquest of 1760. Quebec, however, selected it for its provincial flag in 1948 - the first province to officially declare a flag.

. The fleur-de-lys is a white flower of the iris family, with sword-shaped leaves and showy flowers.
. In 1870 when Canada proclaimed a Governor General's flag, the country passed up the standard-issue imperial laurel leaves for a wreath of maple leaves.
Medium: Television
Program: CBC Newsmagazine
Broadcast Date: Dec. 28, 1958
Guest(s): J.A. Picard
Reporter: Norman DePoe
Duration: 3:53

Last updated: January 13, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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