So many times we see a tattered Canadian flag flying high. Our iconic national symbol reduced to a rag flying on a pole.
Today marks Flag Day in Canada, a day that garners about as much respect as the flag itself. If you asked most people what today was, the day after Valentine’s Day would be their answer.
The iconic maple leaf turns 46 today. It was on this day in 1965 that Lester B. Pearson, the Prime Minister at the time, revealed the new Canadian flag before a huge crowd in Ottawa. It was the culmination of a year’s search to find a new national symbol, and a stepping away from the Red Ensign. There were mixed reviews about the flag, some loving the new symbol, others still wanting to stick with the flag they fought world wars under. Some critics since have said that the flag does not represent all of Canada, but only eastern Canada. How many maple trees can you find in Alberta or Saskatchewan?
But today isn’t being marked by any special events in Ottawa; no activities at the legions, no activities in the schools. I haven’t heard of anything special planned on parliament hill to mark the day.
This is a day of some significance, but we as Canadians don’t seem to care. Why is that? Our nation’s flag is a symbol for us on the world stage, and one of the few symbols that unite us as Canadians. So why do we treat it with such disrespect?
I have no clear-cut answer for you. But I will provide a suggestion.
Canadians have always had a national identity problem, and our lack of respect stems from that. When we are deep within a cultural depression, the lack of respect for all symbols Canadian increases. But when we seem to have found a new sense of who we are, we rally around these cultural and national symbols. The Winter Olympics in Vancouver serve as an example of this; we found ourselves again in a fervor of national pride. Unfortunately, the road to a Canadian identity is too often the same road as our Olympics hockey teams take during the competition every four years.
As long as our struggle to find a unifying Canadian identity continues, our national symbols, and the days celebrating them will go on unnoticed. Or worse yet – considered insignificant.