December 9, 1953


Jean-François Pouliot


Mr. Jean-Frangois Pouliot (Temiscouaia):

Mr. Speaker, I have been most interested to

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listen to the very able speeches that have been made by the gentlemen who have spoken on a distinctive national flag, and it is quite refreshing for a member who was a witness to very unpleasant discussions about that matter some years ago to realize the progress that has been made in what may be defined as true Canadian citizenship.

My hon. colleagues have realized the importance that Canada has in all the countries of the world, and we are all for a distinctive Canadian flag. Nobody has disagreed about it, and this is why I mention the fact with satisfaction and pride. It was not always the same. When the first proposal for a committee was made by the late prime minister, a committee to study the suggestion to have a Canadian flag, the Leader of the Opposition was not the hon. gentleman who spoke so well this afternoon. It was Mr. Bracken, and Mr. Bracken moved an amendment to the prime minister's motion saying in effect that it was unnecessary to have a committee to study the flag question but that the country should adopt finally the red ensign which had been chosen by order in council.

I appreciate what the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Drew) has said, but he should clarify his statement about the position of his party, and he must say that his party is not maintaining the same attitude now that Mr. Bracken expressed some years ago when he opposed the motion to form a committee to study the national flag question. I am not going to argue about it at any length. I know the present Leader of the Opposition is sincere about this, but I do not want him to confuse the issue and I want the position to be made clear, his own position and that of his party.

I do not want the flag question to be a political football, to be considered a political issue, and I mean with political partisanship. It is too great and too noble a question. It should be above all party considerations.

Of course the flag must be simple, and it must be easy to make. But what will it consist of? Well, we have an emblem that is recognized the world over, which is the favourite emblem of the army, the air force and even the navy; which is used by many corporations and big transport companies, as well as by private individuals as the distinctive emblem and symbol of our country. It is the maple leaf. The maple leaf is beautiful; it is significant to our country, and when anyone sees a maple leaf on a letter, on the lapel of someone, on the funnel of a ship, or on the cargoes that we are sending to underprivileged countries all over, they think of Canada, the great country we live in and are

so proud of. The maple leaf is well known, and people understand that it has the meaning of Canada attached to it.

Therefore in my humble view the easiest plan to choose would be a flag with a maple leaf on it. There are three colours of the maple leaf, namely green at first, then gold and then red. As to which colour is the most convenient or the most appropriate, it is not for me to decide. But the easiest way to choose a flag from among all the exhibits that have been sent to the committee would be to think of the maple leaf in the first place and, in the second place, to put it on a background of any colour that would be appropriate having regard to the colour which is chosen for the maple leaf. We would then have a truly national flag. There would be no confusion about it. Nobody could be prevented from hoisting the union jack with the Canadian national flag.

If I am in favour of a distinctive national flag it is because I am proud of my country and because I have had many representations from war veterans asking that we should adopt a national flag. In particular, on November 20 from Moncton, New Brunswick, I received this clipping:

The Transcript Letter Box

Moncton, N.B. July 23, 1953.


The Transcript:

May I take a few lines to express my opinion. I am a Korean war veteran.

While in Korea I've seen soldiers from many countries of the world fighting together for a common cause. I've seen proud soldiers of France with their red, white and blue flag; soldiers of the United States with their stars and stripes; English soldiers with their union jack, Canadian soldiers with . . . nothing.

We are a great nation and I think it is time Canadians had their own flag.

"O Canada" would make a beautiful national anthem.

We are a nation within the commonwealth. We are a nation, not a "possession".

L. J. Williams,

Lance Corporal, Korean Vet.


That is only one example of the numerous letters which have been sent to the press by war veterans who are extremely anxious that the parliament of Canada shall adopt a distinctive national flag.

As I said, I do not intend to play politics with the matter, but it should not be a political football kicked at the government. I am sure the government is ready to assume its responsibility at any time. When the Prime Minister spoke of unanimity about the flag, it did not mean unanimity amongst all individual Canadian citizens. Such a thing is an impossibility. But in a democratic country we must abide by the will of the majority.

In order to be fair and in order to consult each member of the house about a matter of such great importance, I think the question of choosing a distinctive Canadian flag should be discussed in the caucuses of the various parties and groups and that their whips should get in touch with the chief government whip to inform him that the majority of the members of all parties and groups in this house are in favour of the adoption of a distinctive Canadian flag. That may be done next week, if there are caucuses of the various parties and groups, before we leave for our constituencies, or it could be done a little later on.

I hope it will be done before the Prime Minister leaves for his world tour, so that in all the countries to which he will go he may be greeted by the Canadian flag with the maple leaf on it. I am sure that will have a very good effect all over.

In concluding, Mr. Speaker, let me say that I do not expect a distinctive national flag to be the gift of any political party but rather to be the gift of the parliament of Canada to the Canadian people.


Allan Henry Hollingworth


Mr. A. H. Hollingworih (York Centre):

Mr. Speaker, I should like to assure you and, through you, the members of this house that this speech, unlike my first one, will not spark a debate in this house which will continue for more than three weeks.

I have great pleasure in seconding the motion of the hon. member for Bonaventure (Mr. Arsenault). My respectful submission is that there are cogent and compelling reasons why we should adopt a distinctive Canadian flag in the near future.

I believe that it is pertinent here to note the historical background for my contention. Prior to the Statute of Westminster there was no reason why we should have a distinctive Canadian flag; but when the Statute of Westminster was passed in 1932 this was the first big step toward Canada becoming an independent nation in the British commonwealth. Today we have achieved the status of full nationhood. So I say let us indicate that we have the warp and woof of an independent nation.

In law we have abolished appeals to the privy council and have made our Supreme Court of Canada the final court of appeal, yet we have no Canadian flag. We have a Canadian Governor General representing the Queen of Canada, but we have no Canadian flag. I have heard members of all parties proudly declare that they are Canadians. Still we have no Canadian flag. The children of the province of Quebec know a provincial

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flag. The children of English-speaking Canada know the union jack and the red ensign. But the Canadian children do not know a Canadian flag because, sad to relate, we have none. So I say, Mr. Speaker, that we should have a distinctive Canadian flag having a symbol incontestably Canadian-for example a maple leaf or a beaver-with a suitable background.

Another point is this. A distinctive Canadian flag will help us to develop a truly Canadian culture, a truly Canadian national feeling or what I shall call, for lack of a better term, a Canadian way of life. We are slowly developing this Canadian way of life. We are a modest, unassuming, moderate, sensible people. We are not inclined to shout our virtues from the housetops. But I say we are developing a Canadian pride in our own quiet way. I feel that a Canadian flag will act as a catalyst in the crucible of a Canadian national development.

Let it not be said that by supporting a Canadian flag I am endeavouring to undermine the commonwealth connection or lessen commonwealth ties. The union jack, or some version of the red ensign, might well be retained as a commonwealth flag. Personally I should like the Secretary of State (Mr. Pickersgill) to take up this matter with other countries of the commonwealth at the first opportunity, or we might have what the hon. member for Bonaventure (Mr. Arsenault) has suggested. No one appreciates the meaning or the significance of the union jack more than I do. To me, the union jack stands for freedom, for the dignity of man, for the impartiality of justice, for tolerance and fair play. I realize that there is not a more exalted legacy in the annals of history than the legacy of British justice and fair play. To even intimate that Canada should ever break those bonds with this unique, this great organization called the commonwealth, is both incomprehensible and fanciful in the extreme.

We must remember, however, Mr. Speaker, that Canada is no longer predominantly an Anglo-Saxon country. Canadians of French descent make up more than 30 per cent of the population of this country. There are many more Canadians of European origin. I am happy to say that some of them are included in the membership of this house, and they belong to all parties. All these people are making an outstanding contribution toward the development of Canadian culture, industry and commerce. Naturally enough they do not feel the same sentimental and emotional attachment to Britain that we Canadians of Anglo-Saxon descent have.

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They think of themselves primarily as Canadians. Perhaps some Canadians of Anglo-Saxon descent are inclined to be almost more British than Canadian.

I am convinced that the Canadians of French descent do not want the fleur-de-lis, as their attachment is to Canada and not to pre-revolutionary France. I think that we Canadians of Anglo-Saxon descent should also agree to a distinctive Canadian flag. Canada is, and I stress this again, a country built upon diversity, built largely by the joint efforts of two different cultures, one with French Roman Catholic background and one with English Protestant background. I am very proud to be a member of the latter culture. Both cultures have contributed equally to the development of a nation, in the soil of which the plant of tolerance, mutual respect and affection is growing vigorously.


Edward Turney Applewhaite


Mr. E. T. Applewhaife (Skeena):

I believe every hon. member who has made an address on this subject, Mr. Speaker, has started by agreeing at least in part with the sponsor of the resolution, that it is desirable that Canada should have a national flag. I feel that way, too. I prefer the word "desirable" to the word "expedient". I should like us to have eventually a truly Canadian flag because it is desirable. In the short time I have been here, sir, I think I have had reason to realize how passionately attached to this idea the member for Bonaventure (Mr. Arsenault) is.

I feel, therefore, we should compliment him upon the extreme restraint and deep understanding of other people's views which he showed throughout his masterly introduction of this resolution.

However, I do not agree with him when he says this matter is one which we should approach from our intelligence rather than from our feelings. In other words, I assume he means that we should decide this question solely by the mind rather than by the emotions. I regretfully feel that any national flag which might be adopted through intelligent reasoning would not serve the purpose for which I believe a national flag has some value. If a national flag has any value at all, surely that value is in being a symbol of national pride, of national loyalty, and of national unity. I do not think you could work up national pride, loyalty or unity by cold reasoning or by intelligence alone. In other words, I feel this whole question, whether we like it or not, has to be viewed very largely from the point of view of emotion. If the final decision does not have any emotional appeal, we are not going to be able to sell anything in the nature of a national flag to the Canadian people.

[Mr. Hollingworth.J

We have to admit that throughout the

length and breadth of this country there is not so much disagreement as lack of agreement. I do not believe that in Canada today there is too much strong antagonism to any particular idea in connection with the Canadian flag. I do believe there is a great lack of enthusiasm for any particular Canadian flag. As the hon. member for Macleod (Mr. Hansell) said, in the committee of both houses which studied the matter for a session, and which I think we can assume was doing its best to come to a united decision on behalf of the people of Canada, the final vote was 15 to 8. There was not much unanimity in that committee, which had doubtless had the benefit of all kinds of representations made to it. Then to what extent are we going to get unanimity in the country, unless we try to work up that unanimity?

I am of the opinion that it would not matter what the Canadian flag consisted of; if this house unanimously adopted it today and said to the people of Canada tomorrow, "That is your flag, whether you like it or not", better than 20 per cent of the Canadian public would resent it. They might feel that it was the privilege of this government, through the Minister of Finance (Mr. Abbott), to tell them, "That is your income tax rate, whether you like it or not". They might feel it was the privilege of this government, through the Postmaster General (Mr. Cote), to say, "You get so many mail deliveries a day, whether you like it or not". But is it the privilege of this government or even of this house to say, "There is the flag to which you and your children are to be loyal for all time to come, whether you like it or not"?

Mr. Speaker, I do not think it is. I know that I am not in a majority in this house, or even on this side of the house at the moment, when I say I am far from satisfied that we have reached a stage in public education, if you like to call it that, where we could offer the people of Canada a flag which would arouse that pride and loyalty which we want the flag to arouse. I am not, for a moment, claiming that should not be our objective. It is a most worthy objective and one toward which we should all work. But I am afraid you have to show me that we have reached that stage in our national development.

I have gained quite a little name for making myself unpopular in certain quarters by calling a spade a spade and by dragging some things out into the open, looking at them and forcing other people to look at

them. I come from a place which is quite a distance from this part of Canada, and I am afraid there is going to be not too happy an impression in various parts of the country as a result of this debate, no matter how the debate finally ends. I think there has been and there will continue to be worked up in pants of the country a certain line of thought which is most undesirable.

May I pause here to say that I am not referring to the members or to the policy of any political party. I consider this matter one which should be considered entirely outside of party politics and that, in so far as there are inherent prejudices in all kinds of Canadians, there are inherent prejudices in the members of all political parties.

But I know in my part of the country, as the result of this type of debate, the impression has gone abroad-and it has been worked up deliberately in some quarters-that the sponsoring of the move for a Canadian flag is an indication that our French-speaking compatriots in Canada are not truly loyal either to Canada or to commonwealth connections. I want to say that, because I think it is time someone from that part of the country-and I am going to be the one- said he did not believe a word of it.

I want the house to know, just as an indication of what might be described as parochial thinking-and I do not think it is confined entirely to my province-that eight or ten years ago, living away out there on the fringe, when my knowledge of French Canada could be put in a hat-and I do not know too much more even now-I did assume that that was so. Now, having had the privilege for the last five years of meeting and working with, and sometimes working politically against, my French-speaking compatriots, I know there is not a word of truth in that view. I know the answer I gave to an organization about a year ago-and it shall be nameless-was perfectly true. When a suggestion of that sort was made I said to those people that if they would read and study the history of Canada they would realize that had it not been for the wholehearted loyalty of French-speaking Canadians between 1812 and 1815 to those things for which the union jack stood and for which it now stands, there would not be any Canada today for which to design a flag.

I think perhaps this debate gives us an opportunity to think not only of the flag but of the things the flag should stand for, and the desirability of knowing more and understanding more about the thinking in other parts of the country, just as this afternoon the hon. member for Bonaventure (Mr. Arsenault)

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indicated so clearly that he understands the thinking in many parts of the country other than the part in which he lives.

Having said that, I wish to make a few rambling comments about the flag itself, because I do not agree with some of the statements made today while, on the other hand, I agree heartily with others.

I believe I am in a minority over here when I say I was sorry to hear the sponsor of the resolution say-and I think I am interpreting him correctly-that he was not anxious to have or did not want to see either the fleur-de-lis or the union jack in a new Canadian flag, that he did not want to see any racial emblems on that flag.

Well, in so far as racial emblems are concerned, fine and dandy. As I said, I do not know very much about French-speaking Canada. I do not know whether the fleur-de-lis is, as we in British Columbia think, a sort of symbol of the French ancestry of part of our population. We regard the fleur-de-lis and its position on the coat of arms as indicating that the first Canadians, other than the red Indians, were the people from France who came to settle here. That is history for which we, who never spoke French in our lives, have great reason to be proud. And I think from the point of view of historical association, apart entirely from racialism, it would be quite advisable that we should retain in our flag and in our national symbol something which would indicate that those of us who came here afterward, or our predecessors who came, were not the first Canadians.

I know we have valuable Canadians whose ancestry may be German or South American, or perhaps Hawaiian. But you cannot get away from the fact that this country was built by the people who came here under the fleur-de-lis or the union jack, and I do not think we want entirely to forget our history, or to lose sight of those facts.

Mind you, in some other connections we take darned good care that we do not lose sight of that. As my hon. friend said, and quite truly, we have people here of German, Portuguese, Dutch or other descent; but we have retained our historical associations in our two official languages. And if there is any other argument required to prove overwhelmingly that this country is either Englishspeaking or French-speaking, I do not know what it is. I am in favour-and I shall make a speech about it some day-of doing something I have in view to promote bilingualism in this country. If bilingualism is justified, as

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it is, it must rest on the history of the country of which, so far as I know, the symbols are the fleur-de-lis and the union jack.

At the moment I am not going to design a new Canadian flag. The Leader of the Opposition gave us the number of people who had done so, and none of those designs has yet been accepted. But there has been some reference to design, and I am going to take issue with the mover of the resolution on one or two statements he made. It does not necessarily follow that I entirely disagree with him, but I think his logic is wrong. He implies that the red ensign is principally and originally a marine flag-and in this he is perfectly correct-and that therefore it is inappropriate that it should be the basis of a flag flown on land as well as at sea.

Well, if the red ensign is-as it is-primarily a marine flag, much more so is the blue ensign, which is the base of the national flags of two of the members of the British commonwealth, and which so far as I know have proven acceptable to them. Of course they did not have our advantage of having behind them two ancestral countries.

Another reason why I believe we should include something which bears some relationship to the fleur-de-lis is that there should be some indication in our flag that we never intend to forget the fact that Champlain and Frontenac and the other early explorers were here long before Thompson and Fraser discovered the rivers out in my part of the country.

I believe it was the hon. member who sponsored the resolution who said that the union jack was a symbol of the superiority of the parliament of Great Britain over the parliament of Canada. If it were so I certainly would have nothing to say in its defence. That it has been so is perfectly true, just as the fleur-de-lis, about which I am talking, was the symbol of a French regime which no longer exists.

Symbols and their meanings change. It is my understanding that in the very early days of the Christian church the symbol of Christianity was a fish and not the cross we use today. Not so many years ago I will admit that the union jack was, shall we say, the symbol of Great Britain as the head of the commonwealth. Today in the eyes of the world the union jack is now no longer a symbol of a parliament, a queen or a country; it is the accepted symbol of a commonwealth and as such, as the hon. member for Bonaventure (Mr. Arsenault) so fairly says, it should be retained in Canada; and I thank him for making that so clear.

Whether it should be retained as a separate flag or as part of the new Canadian flag I do not know. But one thing I would not like to see us do is to fall into the trap which one of the dominions fell into, when a resolution was bitterly debated and carried, I think with a majority of one or two, and a committee of experts was instructed to design a flag. They were instructed to include the union jack therein, and they did. The flag as it finally emerged has, if I remember correctly, a union jack occupying one fifty-second part of the area of the flag. When you cut a flag down to the size of a postcard for distribution to the schools you can see where the one fifty-second part will get you. I would suggest that whatever else we do we make certain that the flag we eventually do produce will be one that will retain its distinctiveness even though its dimensions are reduced pretty small.

The hon. member of course is asking for a committee, and at the same time he, as others, has quite firm ideas himself as to what the design should consist of. He quite definitely seems to favour the maple leaf. The only reason I mention this is to indicate that even before we set up a committee we all have some preconceived ideas as to what the flag should consist of, and most of us are likely to express them. And if we have those preconceived ideas it is going to be pretty difficult for us to swallow something else. That is why I should like to see the idea discussed in all the periodicals and publications in Canada that will do so until we find out whether we can discover a design upon which not less than 85 per cent of the people of Canada can look with favour.

I will say this, and I think most likely every member of parliament would say the same. Whatever this house adopted we would likely support, provided that it was a design of the house and not just of one party. I do not know whether the people of Canada as a whole are going to look at it in that way; and I think, as I said earlier, the people of Canada should have their preferences consulted. I know it was done some years ago, but 1946 is seven years ago, and thinking is changing all the time.

So far as the maple leaf is concerned, I feel a particular loyalty to it. It is most likely the most desirable emblem to include. When I went to school "The Maple Leaf Forever" was our national anthem, and of course I never could get over the fact that we changed it. However, if we are going to discuss colours I would suggest in passing that the gradations of autumn colours are

impossible in a cheap reproduction of a flag such as we would want to distribute on school holidays and so on. But I see nothing the matter with the springtime green, because after all this country is, and is going to be for a great many years, in the springtime of its life; and green, if I remember rightly, is supposed to be the colour of hope.

I want to take issue-not very vehemently, because I do not want us to get vehement on this subject-with the Leader of the Opposition, and I think in this he was supported by the hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar (Mr. Cold well). He said it is the government's responsibility to take this matter through the house. I am paraphrasing him, and I hope his supporters will correct me if I am paraphrasing him wrongly. I understood him to say that the government, following the activities of the committees which have been appointed, should bring down a national flag for Canada.

It is not the responsibility of this or any other government. The matter of a national flag should be the people's choice. A lot has been said in this house in previous years and in this session about the fact that the charter of the United Nations does not start out by saying "We the governments." It starts: "We the peoples." While the United Nations Organization is handling a lot of matters which are material, still the origin of that organization was a little greater than material; it was to handle matters which have their spiritual, their moral implications as well. It was to handle matters in which it was hoped the people of the world might become emotionally enthusiastic, and that is what we want the people of Canada to do with a national flag.

I suggest that it makes very little difference for the purposes of my argument whether the government of the day is Conservative, Liberal, C.C.F., Social Credit or what have you. The very introduction of a bill by the government before such time as it had been unanimously accepted by all parties represented in the house would most likely throw the whole question of our national flag into the realm of party politics, which heavens knows is the last place we want to see it. I believe that for a discussion such as we are having today, and for the preliminary steps to the action which we hope will be taken some day not too far distant, a private member's resolution is the proper way to introduce a measure of this sort, at least until we have reached the stage where whoever happen to be occupying the government benches can get up and introduce a measure knowing they can call upon the

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Leader of the Opposition to second that measure; and that is the way a national flag should be adopted.

With these more or less disconnected remarks I would leave the subject, with the exception of one other point. As I did so often during the election campaign, I now propose in this house to state a problem. I hope I may state it in such clear terms that it may sound like a solution, but it is a problem nevertheless for which we have to find a solution.

If you will assume that the remarks I have made are basically sound, that this is a matter more for the heart than for the head, more for the emotion than for the intelligence; if you are going to assume as I do that more harm than good can be done to Canada by forcing an unpopular flag down the throats of 15 or 20 per cent, then you will also agree that our duty, our toughest task-because it is one we cannot see our way through-is not either to set up a committee or to consider designs. It is to work up within the country a unanimity amongst the people. That is going to be very difficult. There are large sections of my province where they would almost be willing to proceed to bloodshed if you suggested dropping the union jack. There are sections in Canada undoubtedly where they would definitely consider it a stigma of inferiority if you included the union jack.

In the face of these two propositions-and these are only two of the difficulties-I do not think we have the right to try to decide on a flag at the present time. I think our duty is to try to reconcile those apparently irreconcilable differences of opinion. It can be done. Nothing is impossible. I do not know how it can be done, but perhaps the best way of all would be to take some members of parliament and other people of all political complexions from the province of Quebec to British Columbia so the people there could meet them, not just read speeches they had made. They would then have an opportunity to appreciate their way of thinking on matters of national importance.

Let us take some people from the industrial or imperialistic, if you like, Ontario and send them to the Atlantic coast, to Quebec or some other province. Let us send some people from British Columbia to Newfoundland. As long as we try to get a unanimous solution to a problem like this, which comes almost as close to the heart as religion, by using intelligence, by using a parliamentary committee or by some other method at long distance, we are going to finish up just where we started, or perhaps a little more distant than we were when we started.

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André Gauthier


Mr. Andre Gauthier (Lake St. John):

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say a few words in support of the resolution moved by my colleague from Bonaventure (Mr. Arsenault).

For some years now, there has been unanimity of opinion about the project of a distinctive flag, exclusively Canadian; that unanimity of opinion became more evident as our country acquired sovereignty and independence.

We have achieved national unity through the efforts of the Liberal party and of those who have been its leaders for the past 50 years. It is also under Liberal administrations, and more particularly through the efforts of our present leaders, that our country progressed through the various stages that led to complete sovereignty and independence. The logical consequence of our previous moves would therefore be to endow our country with a distinctive national flag.

The dignity of a truly sovereign nation should make it imperative for its citizens to press for a symbol of their common aspirations.

National unity, the Canadian people's aspirations, our past history, the sacrifices of our soldiers on the field of battle, the difficult conquest of our political liberties, national prestige, well-founded patriotism, all these are reasons which call for an immediate and definite solution to the question of a distinctively Canadian flag.

There has been much thought of national unity. To my mind there is nothing more important for the furtherance of that national unity than a flag which, in every circumstance, should serve as a rallying sign for all Canadians. Every citizen of this country is proud of belonging to this great Canadian nation of ours. The best way to give concrete form to this pride is to give them an exclusive Canadian symbol.

Certain timorous individuals, more imperialistic than Canadian, fear that by doing away with the union jack we will weaken the ties that bind us to the commonwealth. To them I would say that the strength of the whole is the sum total of the strength of the parts. In any event these people should now understand that sentimental links are a thing of the past so far as Canada is concerned and that if we remain in the commonwealth it is because we find it to be in our interest, to begin with, as well as in the common interest of the free peoples and of the cause of world peace.

I listened with satisfaction to the speech delivered by the hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar (Mr. Coldwell). He has remained

faithful to the principles he set out on November 8, 1945:

I wish to see the intent of this resolution carried out. I wish to see Canada with a distinctive flag, and in my opinion the red ensign with a coat of arms on it, which I would rather say nothing about, is not a distinctive flag.

The same day the then minister of veterans affairs, Mr. Mackenzie, had this to say:

We in Canada have shared the union jack and we shall always honour it as the symbol of much that is best and most precious in our heritage; but we have had nothing that has been peculiarly and indisputably our own, that would symbolize Canada, -all of Canada and everyone in Canada. There should be something that all can see and look to with pride, as the symbol of this great nation of ours, to which affection and loyalty can attach, and which can become the sign of the unity and purpose that will make Canada great.

The present Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) has declared repeatedly that he is in favour of a really distinctive flag, but he believes, quite wisely, to my mind, that the adoption of such a measure must not give rise to such controversial discussion as may disrupt our national unity.

But how can we assess public opinion in Canada? This afternoon, I heard the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Drew) state that the government had everything necessary to make a decision, and this statement was based on information obtained in 1945. Well, since 1945, public opinion in Canada has changed considerably. Canada became a sovereign nation in 1947 and the Supreme Court of Canada has now become the last court of appeal for this country.

In other words, public opinion in Canada has shown an increasing interest in this matter for the last few years and therefore we cannot rely only on information dating from 1945 to make a decision now.

For these reasons, Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that we take first a recorded vote on this notice of motion and then, that we call a plebiscite. This appeal to the people should be held without delay and I am convinced, personally, that 80 per cent of all Canadians are in favour of a distinctive national flag.

I do not wish to emphasize this point any longer, because I want this motion to be adopted this afternoon. In conclusion, I would ask the government to take immediate and appropriate measures to sound out public opinion in Canada, in order that we may have, if not this year, at least next year, this emblem of our sovereignty, which would be the symbol of our national unity and patriotism: a typically and truly distinctive Canadian flag.



Daniel (Dan) McIvor


Mr. Daniel Mclvor (Fori William):

Mr. Speaker, as I served on this committee I feel I should say a word. I was grateful to the Leader of the Opposition for the tribute he paid to that committee. However, I do not agree with him when he says they knew it all-this is my own language-because I think another committee might know a little bit more. I certainly do not agree with the hon. member for Macleod (Mr. Hansell) when he says that Canada is the same, that the people are the same, that there are the same parties in the house. He must remember when he was a small boy at school being taught that you cannot step into the same river twice. We are always changing. It is a universal law that not for two seconds are things the same. This country should be better, if we have been giving the proper kind of service, than it was at that time.

No matter what a former government did, I submit that an individual member has a right to introduce any resolution or bill he likes if he feels it is his duty to do so, or that it is in the best interests of Canada. I agree also that every hon. member has the right to vote as he likes.

I sat on that committee and I shall never forget it. I remember one hon. member who has now gone to his reward, the former member for Davenport, who had convictions a good deal like my own. The friendship that developed there was real. I thought the chairman of that committee was a young man of great promise, and he handled that committee, and those of us who were hard to handle, in such a way that we agreed with him before we were through.

I am thankful that we have a Prime Minister who champions the cause of unity in Canada. He made that one of his pleas during the election. He has stood for unity in the past and he will stand for unity in the future, and anything that tends toward disunity in Canada will get no support from him. For that reason, in introducing legislation I think we should be very careful to avoid anything that tends toward disunity.

I remember the final vote on a flag including the union jack and the maple leaf. It was not a unanimous vote, but it was so near to it that it might well have been, for I believe only one member voted against it. If I am wrong I stand corrected. If I served on that committee again I would support the same flag because it has sentiment, ties that are tender; because I was born in a part of the British empire that takes second place to no other in loyalty or ability to serve king or queen; and because I am not yet prepared to support any national flag for Canada but a flag with the maple leaf and union jack.

Canadian Flag

That flag was first drawn by a young man down east, I think in Halifax, who was an invalid; and he demonstrated great sense and wisdom. Whether that flag will be adopted as a national flag I do not know, but as yet that is the only flag for which I am prepared to vote.

I have mentioned the land of my birth, and let me add that Ireland is cursed with religious bigotry, both Protestant and Roman Catholic. Both sides are narrow and selfish, and only once in a while do they rise above their narrowness. I do not want our great Canada to become like that, and anything that tends to divide our nation will be opposed by me.


John Lorne MacDougall


Mr. J. L. MacDougall (Vancouver-Burrard):

Mr. Speaker, this is an extremely important discussion we have listened to today, and in dealing with this issue it is my opinion that we should make haste slowly. For many years in the history of our fair nation we have tried to evolve the maximum amount of harmony, unity and good will amongst Canadians from the Atlantic to the Pacific. We can all recall the efforts of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, R. L. Borden, Mackenzie King, and in more recent times the present Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent), toward the establishment of a sense of unity which is completely opposite to bigotry and disunion.

In my younger days I belonged to an organization which had the issue of a distinctive national flag as one of the main planks in its platform. There were many other planks in that platform, and some of the members in that organization felt that all our aims should be realized immediately. Wiser counsel prevailed, however, and we became satisfied making haste slowly.

Along with many other hon. members of this house I fought in world war I and world war II. I fought under the flag of our forebears, and I was as glad to fight under that flag as were many others. But I do not think the feeling among many sections of our people has approached any degree of unanimity as yet with respect to the development of a distinctive Canadian flag. We cannot continue our progress toward unity by tearing to rags and tatters the degree of unity we have accomplished over the past 55 or 56 years.

It is only human for certain members of the house to decide, possibly within their own minds, that this matter of a distinctive Canadian flag is something that should be decided by the government. However, I do not agree with that and, as the hon. member for Skeena (Mr. Applewhaite) pointed out so clearly in his address, the people of Canada are the people whom we serve in this house.

Canadian Flag

To the best of my knowledge and belief, certainly as far as the Pacific coast is concerned, there has been no terrific upsurge for the immediate adoption of a distinctive Canadian flag. There may be such an upsurge, but it remains for us to listen and learn if there are sections of the nation clamouring for such a change.

I cannot say I am too enthusiastic about the ensign that we now consider to be our national flag, but regardless of whether or not I am personally 100 per cent for it, the point of consequence is that if and when a change is made we do not, in making that change, destroy the many fine acts of unity that have been performed by prime ministers of various parties in the last 55 or 56 years.

I am moved, Mr. Speaker, by a debate that took place in this House of Commons last spring-and it is something I wish to refer to at this time

when the bill to bring about the establishment of the royal style and titles of Her Majesty the Queen was under discussion. All of us who sat in the chamber during that debate I think will agree that it was one of the most moving moments in the history of the twenty-first parliament. The Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) delivered a magnificent oration on the subject, and the leader of the official opposition designated the then hon. member for Lake Centre, now the hon. member for Prince Albert (Mr. Dief-enbaker) to make the official reply for the opposition.

On a matter of such great national importance I think it would be well for us on this occasion to refresh our memory of what was said then by the Prime Minister and the reply that was made on behalf of the official opposition in the house at that time. As will be recalled, the Prime Minister had just returned from a conference of the prime ministers of the commonwealth. During the course of his remarks he stated the object of the bill. I now quote from page 1566 of Hansard of February 3, 1953. The style and titles incorporated at that time in the bill were as follows:

Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom, Canada and her other realms and territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.

That style and title remains today-as I hope it shall for a long period of time-as the way in which we in Canada designate our most gracious and beloved sovereign.

I will not quote the full text of the remarks by the Prime Minister at that time, but in speaking of the previous gathering of the

(Mr. MacDougall.j

prime ministers of the commonwealth he had this to say, as reported at page 1566 of Hansard of February 3, 1953:

The question then arose whether it would be proper to have in the title we would use the traditional words, "by the grace of God", sovereign. We felt that our people did recognize that the affairs of this world were not determined exclusively by the volition of men and women; that they were determined by men and women as agents for a supreme authority; and that it was by the grace of that supreme authority that we were privileged to have such a person as our sovereign. Then perhaps the rather more delicate question arose about the retention of the words "defender of the faith".

In England there is an established church. In our countries there are no established churches but in our countries there are people who have faith in the direction of human affairs by an allwise Providence; and we felt that it was a good thing that the civil authorities would proclaim that their organization is such that it is a defence of the continued beliefs in a supreme power that orders the affairs of mere men, and that there could be no reasonable objection from anyone who believed in the Supreme Being in having the sovereign, the head of the civil authority, described as a believer in and a defender of the faith in a supreme ruler.

The Prime Minister went on at some length to make the position clear about the position that was taken by the prime ministers of the commonwealth on that occasion. I think it is well that we should take cognizance of some of the additional things that were said, and which were carried back to us from that conference by the Prime Minister. He also said this, as reported at page 1567 of Hansard to which I have referred:

We are all proud of being Canadian citizens because we can be so and can exercise all our rights as such without forgetting our racial origins, our ancestral traditions, and without there being any effort by any of our fellow citizens to make us over into any other kind of Canadian than we happen to be because of our racial origins and with our ancestral traditions.

As I said, the then hon. member for Lake Centre made an extremely stirring speech following the Prime Minister. In it he said, as reported at page 1568 of Hansard of the same date:

Mr. Chairman, it was a most moving address to which we have just listened. It is evidence of the strength of the parliamentary system that while we may be separated in smaller things, in respect to our system of government and to the unity that is provided by the crown, there is no division, there is no diversity of opinion, there is but a common devotion ... As we listened to the Prime Minister without regard to party considerations this parliament became cathedral in devotion to our history, to our heritage and to our common pursuit of freedom.

Mr. Speaker, I have read certain passages from the speeches made on that occasion by our Prime Minister and the then hon. member for Lake Centre, who acted on behalf of the

official opposition. It seems to me that in those words we have the core and crux of what we wish to hold dear within this land of ours. As the then hon. member for Lake Centre said, the house on that occasion became cathedral in devotion. In the name of all the things we hold dear, Mr. Speaker, let us not now take action that in any way is going to disturb, even to the most minute degree, the sentiments of the house on that occasion and, I am sure, the sentiments of the house as they prevail today.

It would seem to me that in our great land of Canada today we have a large number of people who do not come from the United Kingdom. We have a large number of people who come from various parts of Europe and who, by our standards of unity and freedom in Canada, are rapidly becoming loyal Canadians, ready to stand in defence of our beloved land. We also have those who have come here at terrific sacrifices of their own, and quite possibly extreme sacrifices by the members of their families whom they left behind. These people have come to Canada to enjoy a life of freedom in a land where prejudice, racial antagonism and religious antagonism play a minor part.

If we are to judge from past experience we could bring into this house not 2,600 designs for a national flag but possibly 26,000 designs. The likelihood that this would result in a majority opinion of the cosmopolitan groups of people who today are the real backbone of our nation in favour of one design is not very real. I admit that in this discussion we have heard the opinions of individuals; but I say to you, Mr. Speaker, that none of us is able to speak for any large number of people in the areas from which we come on this particular subject.

We have, as I have stated, many ideas as to what constitutes patriotism. Some feel that our patriotism in Canada should extend many miles beyond the borders of our own terrain. Others feel that it should be confined within the geographical limits of Canada. With this divergence of views in mind, let us not hurriedly do something that is going to turn out to be a retrograde step.

I could give you my opinion as to what a distinctive Canadian flag should be like. I cannot say, however, that any great number of people in this house would agree with my opinion. I would say without fear of contradiction that as members of this house we have sworn our allegiance to our gracious sovereign. History tells us that certain concessions have been granted by the sovereign to certain societies. I think it is fair to

Canadian Flag

assume from this that if concessions were granted by the sovereign to these societies similar concessions might be granted to a nation. I would hope we might keep that specifically in mind. If we allowed a decision on this matter to be made hurriedly, in all likelihood it would bring about a greater divergence of opinion than now exists and might affect the whole future of the Dominion of Canada.

After having listened to quite a number of speeches today on this issue I would hope that we might be able to take a second look at this issue. It is always well, when you are dealing with a subject which has a particular emotional appeal, not to let your emotions run away with you. That being true, it would seem to me prudent that we take not only a second look but perhaps a third look at this issue before a decision is made. We have had a long history of progress and development in this land. This progress and advancement evolved because most of the people of Canada were behind the steps that were taken to bring about that measure of progress which we enjoy today.

With that in mind, sir, I take pleasure in moving the adjournment of the debate.


Walter Edward Harris (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)


Mr. Harris:

Tomorrow we will begin

with the house in committee of the whole on Bill No. 6, respecting the department of northern affairs and national resources; we will then take up the resolution standing in the name of the Minister of Resources and Development having to do with amendments to the acts respecting the Northwest Territories; then the resolution having to do with the financial agreement with the United Kingdom; then second reading of Bill No. 27, to amend the Children of War Dead (Education Assistance) Act; then the second reading of Bill No. 28, to amend the National Parks Act; then the resolution standing in the name of the Minister of National Defence with respect to the Defence Services Pension Act.


It being five minutes after six o'clock the house adjourned, without question put, pursuant to standing order.

Thursday, December 10, 1953

December 9, 1953