Letter submitted by Wayne Adam
TORONTO — Vimy Ridge is sacred soil, consecrated by thousands of Canadians, and given to our country by a grateful France. Yet on this ridge purchased by Canadian blood, the Canadian flag was not allowed to take the place of honour at ceremonies marking the centennial of one of our greatest achievements.
Ottawa insisted that royal flags take precedence. And there were royals a-plenty. Three princes m from Britain—Charles, William, and Harry. Each has his own personal flag which, says the Dept. of Canadian Heritage, comes before the Canadian flag — paraded ahead of and fixed in a position superior to the Maple Leaf. In fact, the same rule applies to the flags of ALL members of Britain’s royal family.
Here at home, the rule is implemented even more widely. It demotes our national flag for personal vice-regal ones—the flags of the governor general and the 10 lieutenant-governors—often removing our flag altogether.
As we ushered in our 150th year on January 1, Governor General David Johnston was on Parliament Hill. Because of that, the Canadian flag was quietly removed from the top of the Peace Tower and replaced with his blue banner.
This happens even on our highest patriotic day, the First of July. And protocol requires it anywhere one of these officials is on business, or a British royal is anyplace in the country.
A hundred years ago, we unquestioningly went to war when the motherland did. We fought as children of an empire for ‘king and country’, under British command and to British plans at Vimy.
But by many accounts, Canada’s victory over Germany, there, also won its independence from Britain. Our foreign policy would no longer be decided in London, and by 1931, we were a self-governing dominion. Citizenship followed, then judicial autonomy, our own flag, the Constitution, and the Charter.
We’re an independent nation, yet, in many ways, act as if we’re still a British colony. No Canadian has ever appeared on a first class definitive postage stamp. No coin has ever featured a Canadian on its ‘heads’ side. And though the selection of Viola Desmond for a banknote could have broken even more new ground, no Canadian will yet have appeared on the $20 bill, our most popular.
No law prevents us celebrating our people in any of these ways. Yet only monarchs from Britain have occupied these honored Canadian places—and for over 100 years, in the case of stamps and coins. Now, in our 150th year, the banners of residents of British palaces continue to usurp the Maple Leaf.
We are not the Canada of 1917. That’s why it’s insulting that our flag did not take precedence on its own turf at this past weekend’s Vimy ceremonies. Our boys took that high ground a century ago, and never gave it back. So must we ensure the Maple Leaf never surrenders its position to any other flag.
And as we mark a century and a half of nationhood, it behooves the federal government to honour Canadians on our coins and stamps, and to fix an antiquated rule so the Canadian flag always takes first place in its own country—including at that piece of Canada called Vimy Ridge.
- go to www.Change.org to sign a petition to “Put the Canadian flag first”.