In 2020, the national flag of Canada will be celebrating its 55th anniversary. This symbol unites all Canadians, and reminds us of our common values: equality, diversity, and inclusion.
In 2015, early in my time as Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, my office invited hundreds of Ontarians to the iconic Maple Leaf Gardens to form a living flag – the result, a stunning photo taken by Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky, hangs in Queen’s Park today as a reminder of the power of unity and the dangers of division.
The maple leaf is a symbol which has been used as shorthand to identify Canadians for longer than we have been joined in confederation. It is a symbol borne of our natural environment and it speaks to our love of this land.
An Ojibway legend spoke of the sugar maple tree and the value which was placed on the sap. Canadian soldiers wore the maple leaf on their metal badges, and maple leaves adorned the graves of those who fell in service to King and country.
When Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson proposed a distinctive Canadian flag in 1964, he was told by the Royal Canadian Legion “It’s not a question of logic. It’s a question of emotion. And a flag is an emotional thing”. And so it was through the famous debate and discussion which followed. But finally, Parliament spoke and The Queen proclaimed that Canada would have its own unique flag on February 15, 1965.
On its 55th anniversary, let us pause to remember the feeling one has when we look at our flag, and the pride it brings as a symbol here and around the world. Let us not be complacent but commit to strengthening our values and leaving no one behind as we look to the next 55 years.