Lesson Plan: For Teachers: Taking a Position in the Flag Debate
Discuss with the students the strength of character it takes for a person to argue in favour of an unpopular decision. Ask them to give personal examples of times when they supported a difficult decision. Have them list times when, after the fact, their decision was proven correct, and times when it was proven wrong.
Outline the Opportunity
Have students watch and listen to the film clip showing Prime Minister Pearson speaking to the Winnipeg Legionnaires in May 1964 "Legionnaires boo Pearson over flag", on the topic The Great Canadian Flag Debate on the CBC Digital Archives website. Then have them browse the topic site for other commentaries that support or oppose the various suggested flag options. Students should answer the following questions:
What elements of the Red Ensign pleased some people and repelled others?
Describe and explain your understanding of the symbolic nature of the "Pearson Pennant" (two vertical blue borders with a white centre holding a sprig of three red maple leaves).
In reference to Pearson's speech at the Winnipeg Legion, what is meant by the phrase "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen"?
Why did some suggested flags have Fleurs-de-lis, beavers, or maple leaves prominently displayed? What did these symbols represent?
After answering the questions, students can list the points they observed in Pearson's speech, and draw conclusions about the success of the speech. Using all of the information gathered, students will write a letter to Prime Minister Pearson expressing support for the flag that was eventually chosen, or challenging Pearson's right to design a flag without reference to Britain.
Revisit and Reflect
small groups, students can share their answers to the questions and the letters
they wrote. Bring the groups together to discuss the differences they found
among their responses and letters, and why they think there was such intensity
of feeling among Canadians regarding the creation of a national flag.
The "Pearson Pennant" was not an official name for the first flag presented by Prime Minister Pearson. It was designed to be a new national flag for Canada. Ask students to investigate and determine why this flag became known as the "Pearson Pennant," and to find and explain other epithets assigned to politicians (Bennett Buggy, Trudeaumania).