May 18, 2017

Fair Meadow Place Bookshelf - I Stand for Canada

Fair Meadow Place Bookshelf is a new feature.

Once in awhile, I will review a book that I really like.

I Stand for Canada by Rick Archbold

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Before long it will be July 1st and this year Canada is celebrating it's 
150th Birthday.

Happy Birthday Canada!!!

That is the reason I wanted to feature I Stand For Canada as my first book review.

You see, this is a book about the story behind our Canadian flag.

We start in 1963 when the Liberal Party led by Lester B. Pearson won the federal election.  

The story really started before that, but for our purposes, we will say 1963.

It was Mr Pearson's hope that Parliament could agree on a unique flag for Canada.

Canada's 100th Birthday was coming up in 1967.

Canada's unofficial flag, at that time, was the British flag, the Union Jack.

Above Left is the Union Jack and also Left and below the Jack is the Red Ensign which included the Union Jack and the Canadian Coat of Arms
On the Right are the various Ensigns from other countries around the world who also included the Union Jack on their flags.

Finding a flag for Canada wasn't going to be easy.  

Canada's former Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party, the Honourable John Diefenbaker, sat in opposition to Prime Minister Pearson and the Liberals in the House of Commons. 

Mr Diefenbaker wanted no part of any flag for Canada other than the Red Ensign or the Union Jack.

Union Jack
Union Jack

Red Ensign

......and that's when the trouble started.

But first, it probably helps to understand some of the histories behind Canada's story.  At the time of the great flag debate, it was considered that Canada had two founding nations, France and Great Britain.  

Really there were three founding nations, the first being the Aboriginal peoples while the others came along later and claimed to be founders.  In those days we heard very little of the Aboriginal people's contributions.

Canada was first claimed by France and then later on the British stopped by also claiming ownership.  France and Britain were always at war back then and so then was Canada.

When it came to the flag debate of the 1960's French Canadians were not partial to the Union Jack, but rather the Fleur-de-lys was the pennant of choice.


By 1964 there were a growing number of Canadians, 25%, who traced their origins to neither France nor Britain.

P.M. Pearson was leaning toward what came to be known as The Pearson Pennant.

Three Sugar Maple leaves conjoined on one stem on a white ground flanked by blue bars.

The Pearson Pennant
The three maple leaves were representative of the Canadian component of Canada's Shield and the central element of the Canadian Coat of Arms.

The blue bars represented "from sea to sea".

P.M. Pearson, ever the diplomat, opted for a design that included none of the traditional symbols such as the Union Jack or Fleur-de-lys.

He wanted a design that would offend the fewest and be accepted by the most.

I wonder, did he know that no sugar maple trees grow in western Canada.

The Maple Leaf

As it turns out the maple leaf has been a symbol for Canada since before Confederation in 1867.

Canadian regiments have worn maple leaf pins on their uniforms while overseas.
This was to distinguish them from other regiments also serving under Great Britain.
During WW1 Canadians serving overseas were called "Maple Leafs" by the other troops because of the maple leafs on their uniforms.

The Canadian Coat of Arms also has three maple leaves as an integral part of its design.

By the 1900's most Canadian athletes had adopted the maple leaf as the badge they wore when competing internationally.

There are many examples of Canada's association with the maple leaf.

Back to the Flag Debate

There are so many really good quotes in this book.

 P.M. Pearson rose in the House of Commons to address Parliament in June 1964. 

"Mr Speaker,it is for this generation, for this Parliament, to give them and to give us all a common flag; a Canadian flag which, while bringing together but rising above the landmarks and milestones of the past, will say proudly to the world and to the future:  'I stand for Canada'."

A Flag Committee was brought together consisting of 14 men and 1 woman, all members of parliament.
It was the committee's task to choose a flag for Canada and then present it to the House of Commons where it would be put to a vote.

There were nearly six thousand flag designs submitted from artists and citizens alike.

Many of the designs featured Union Jacks, Fleur-de-lys, beaver including one wearing a mountie uniform.  There were Canada geese, grizzly bears, moose, salmon, bison, and caribou.  The North Star was also popular and so was the cross.  One design featured crossed red hockey sticks and a single hockey puck.

The committee must have been blurry-eyed sorting through all of the designs submitted.  The renditions of flags were plastered over the walls and ceiling of the committee meeting room.

Irish President Eamon de Valera to Lester Pearson in the Spring of 1964.

"I don't think, young man, you're going to win this parliamentary struggle.  It is not possible to legislate as a flag design that has no significance and no tradition attached to it.  To get a flag accepted, you have to have blood on it; you have to have waved it fighting somebody.  That's how our flag became accepted.  It was a badge of revolution; it was a badge of victory against our oppressors.  You know what you ought to do, you really ought to take your flag down to the American border...and get some of your friends on the other side to take some shots at it, and if you can get somebody mildly wounded, that will make all the difference.  It will be a hallowed emblem of your independence from the United States."

Hmm.  What would the Americans think?  

The committee worked for weeks and heard any number of witnesses testify.

Just 19 of the flag designs considered from nearly 6000.

Finally, a design was decided upon by the committee, but it still had to pass in Parliament.

The debate raged on into December and on December 15, 1964, the motion passed 163 to 78.

Canada's flag was born.

Thanks to P.M. Pearson, the Flag Committee, and members of Parliament Canada has its own flag.

We have a flag that is unique.  There is no other like it the world over.

It is recognised everywhere.  Everyone knows what country it belongs to and the principles and beliefs for which it stands.

Canadians expressed solidarity with American neighbours after Sept. 11, 2001, by flying the two countries' flags side by side.  A massive rally was held on Parliament Hill on the international day of mourning for all who had died in terrorist attacks.

In the book, there are many things that make me smile as I remember how we were in the 1960's.  I was a young teenager in high school.  The flag debate seemed to go on forever.  I wondered if it would never end.

The book is a documentation of Canada in the 1960's and goes back further to reveal how we became the Canada we are today.   There are many interesting facts in the book.  
Canada is a work in progress.  We are still growing and developing.

I Stand for Canada has been written with a humorous pride of country.

Thanks for stopping by.


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Post Script

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  1. This is really fascinating! I've always loved the Canadian flag. The Maple Leaf is so beautiful. (I also like the Pearson one you showed, equally, in fact.) I've often wished our US flag was more like yours. Less cluttered. I'm very fond of maple leaves and of my neighbor to the east, a mere three hours away so I'm especially appreciative of this post!

    1. I am so glad you liked the post. I have always liked the U.S. flag and how all of the states are represented on it. We are fond of our neighbour, who are situated mostly to the south, as well and hope we will always remain friends. We have been away on vacation so I am behind on my reading. I hope to catch up a little this weekend.

  2. I just found this blog and have high hopes for it to continue. Keep up the great work, its hard to find good ones. I have added to my favorites. Thank You. Best Stand mixer

    1. Thank you, Marie. I am planning to continue with the blog. I am glad you enjoyed it.


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