Canada flag's 50th anniversary a low-key affair

Feb. 15 marks the 50th anniversary of the Canadian flag, but the marketing of this celebration is somewhat muted compared to other recent anniversaries.

Government's plans to fete the flag are minimal

Molson Canadian's "I am Canadian" campaign ran during the mid to late '90s. (Molson Canadian/Facebook)
It's the 50th anniversary of the Canadian flag on Feb. 15, but the marketing of this celebration is somewhat muted compared to other recent anniversaries.​

In this ad, the year is 1971 and a group of schoolchildren in red ponchos is singing in sub-zero temperatures. As the camera slowly pulls back, we see that the children form the Canadian flag against the white of a snow-covered field. This commercial was created by a group of Canadian ad agencies to promote national unity in the aftermath of the FLQ crisis.

Fourteen years later, crown corporation Petro-Canada also celebrated the flag, with hundreds of people holding up red and white cards to create the familiar maple leaf.

Even private corporations have, on occasion, enjoyed wrapping themselves in the flag. In 2000 — when Molson was still Canadian — CBC Radio's As It Happens’ host Jeff Douglas delivered the beer company’s famous “I Am Canadian” rant before a huge Canadian flag.

But here on the eve of our flag’s 50th birthday, the celebrations have gone almost silent. 

The government has allotted $50,000 for the anniversary, along with another $200,000 to fund celebrations by provincial lieutenant-governors and other organizations.

This is in stark contrast to the splashy commercials and $5.2 million spent commemorating the bicentennial of the War of 1812.

And this year, the government is spending $4 million to mark Sir John A. Macdonald’s 200th birthday.

In addition to several historic moments funded at least in part by the government, there are major birthday events, and Sir John A. is featured on the new Toonie, special gold and silver coins, and a new stamp.

Sure, one previously-produced historic moment is available about the development of the flag, but it doesn’t mention the 50th anniversary.

With so little marketing allocated to our national emblem's 50th anniversary, if we want to see a truly stirring celebration of Canada’s flag we’re going to have to look back at old beer and gasoline commercials. 

Bruce Chambers is a syndicated advertising columnist for CBC Radio


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