Sarah Burke's legacy to be honoured on Flag Day
National Flag of Canada Day recognizes "a great Canadian," Harper says
The flag that has been flying on top of the Peace Tower will be given to the family of the late freestyle skier Sarah Burke on Saturday, a tribute to her legacy on this year's National Flag of Canada Day.
Each year on Feb. 15, the flag is given to "a great Canadian who has merited recognition of his or her fellow countrymen," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Friday.
Burke, who fought to get women's halfpipe recognized as a sport at the 2014 Winter Olympics, died after a training accident in 2012. She was 29.
Giving the flag to Burke's family is a "fitting tribute," Harper said, especially because the Sochi Olympic Games are underway.
"[Burke] was a real pioneer in her particular sport, a real great heroine among Canadian athletes, a great role model," Harper said.
"At no time is national pride in our flag more evident than during the Olympic Games, and it is certainly on prominent display in Sochi over so many podiums and around so many of our magnificent athletes," he said in another statement Saturday.
Burke's parents Gordon Burke and Jan Phelan, along with her husband Rory Bushfield, will be present to receive the flag, according to the statement.
February 15 was declared National Flag of Canada Day in 1996. It was on Feb. 15, 1965, when Canada's current red and white maple leaf flag was officially hoisted for the first time.
The Flag Day tribute comes less than a week after the International Olympic Committee told freestyle skiers in Sochi not to wear stickers on their helmets to honour Burke.
"We would say the competitions themselves, which are a place of celebration, are probably not the right place to really do that," IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. "We would like to keep that separate."
Adams said the IOC has "huge sympathy" for Burke and is willing to helping athletes remember her at news conferences or a ceremony at the multifaith centre in the Olympic Village — but not at the competition sites.
With files from The Associated Press