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Legionnaires boo PM Pearson over flag

The Story


On a stage with Royal Canadian Legionnaires standing at attention and holding Red Ensigns, Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson steps up to a microphone. He's speaking to a convention of 2,000 at a Winnipeg Legion who invited him to talk about his proposed national flag. Pearson tells the crowd the Red Ensign will no longer serve the needs of Canadians. The crowd boos and heckles the prime minister. Pearson smiles and says the angry crowd does not bother him, quoting former U.S. president Harry Truman to the audience, "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen." Most Legionnaires want to continue flying the Canadian Red Ensign, a British navy flag. But Pearson wants to introduce a maple leaf flag. So far, he favours three red maple leaves conjoined on a blue or white background. He also likes a single maple leaf with two blue bars.

Medium: Television
Program: CBC Newsmagazine
Broadcast Date: May 19, 1964
Host: Norman DePoe
Duration: 28:26

Did You know?


• The flag debate divided English Canadians between imperialists who wanted to keep the Red Ensign and nationalists who wanted a new flag. Editorials and letters in French Canadian newspapers showed francophone ambivalence to the debate.

• The Red Ensign, Britain's merchant marine flag, flew unofficially until 1965. It has the Union Jack in the canton (upper-left quarter) and the Canadian coat of arms in the fly (farthest half from rope).

• On May 14, 1964, Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson told the media he would aim to introduce a national flag with official legislation.

• Liberal member of Parliament John Matheson suggested the flag with three red maple leaves joined on one stem. 

• In 1896 Toronto lawyer Edward Chadwick proposed the same three leaves for an official Canadian badge.


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