November 8, 1945 (20th Parliament, 1st Session)


George Randolph Pearkes

Progressive Conservative

Mr. G. R. PEARKES (Nanaimo):

Mr. Speaker, the resolution before the house was forecast in the speech from the throne. In his moving and- eloquent address the Minister of Veterans Affairs (Mr. Mackenzie) has raised this subject above the level of narrow partisan policy, and it is my earnest desire to endeavour to keep the discussion on that same high plane.
For many years parliament, and perhaps Canada as a whole, has been too busy in material affairs to give full attention to the spiritual side of her life. It might be said that we have -been too close to the dust and roar of the market to consider the immortal soul of our nation. But a nation has a soul. Indeed it has been said that a nation is a soul, that -a nation is a spiritual principle. Surely -Canada, through the sacrifices and the terrible hardships of her original explorers, through the sacrifices made by her missionaries as they travelled farther and farther to the west, through the privations suffered by the early settlers who came to this country, as well as in recent years by the endeavours of all those who took part in the two great wars of this generation, has proved that she has a soul of her own. Therefore it is only natural that she should desire some token to represent that soul, some token symbolic of her history and of her future aspirations. That thought has been expressed not only in discussions which have taken place in the house, -but also quite recently in discussions in every part of the country.
In early colonial days the union, jack was regarded as sufficient for our needs. But the union jack primarily is the flag of the British isles; it has gone through a period of evolution. At first the cross of St. George was added to the flag, then the cross of St. Andrew, and later the cross of St. Patrick. By common usage that flag has become recognized as the flag of the British empire.
But, as has been shown by the remarks of the Minister of Veterans Affairs, the union jack has not filled1 all our requirements here

Canadian Flag
in Canada. As he pointed out, to-day Canada has two sea flags, and the distinctive ensign of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Canadian regiments have carried' overseas colours of their own. A regiment usually carries two colours, one known as the king's colour- usually the union jack-and in addition the regimental colour. Those colours have been symbolic of the' spirit and soul of the regiment. They were originally the token around which the regiment might rally, and history record's many deeds of daring in fights for the flag. I think from whait the minister has said and the few remarks I intend" to make this afternoon it will be clear that both ancient and modern history emphasizes the fact that there is a demand for a national flag for Canada.
As the minister pointed out, up to 1904 the Canadian red ensign flew from these parliament buildings, from the legislative buildings of the provinces, from other public buildings and from many schooLhouses, with the result that there was a generation which grew up believing that that was the flag of Canada. In 1909, when Canada sent an expedition to Arctic waters and took over certain of the islands lying off the northern shore of Canada, alongside the union jack was planted a Canadian ensign.
In 1918, when Sir Arthur Currie moved into the city of Mons immediately after the declaration of the armistice, he carried a Canadian ensign which is sometimes referred to as the Mons flag. That flag was collected rather hastily; it was not perfect in design, because there were slight irregularities with regard to the crests of some of the provinces, but to all intents and purposes it was the Canadian red ensign. When the contingent sailed from Canada in December, 1939, a flag was carried by the commander which was looked upon as the flag of the Canadian expedition, but for various reasons that was not carried right through this war.
We now have the troops returning home, and we see in every city across this land flags hung out from poles and from windows. You will see as many Canadian red ensigns as union jacks displayed in welcome to our troops returning. In 1924 authority was granted by order in council that the Canadian red ensign should fly over the offices of the high commissioner in London, and in 1927, a similar order in council was passed authorizing the same flag to be flown over our buildings in Washington.
Reference was made to the difficulty experienced by our athletes during the Olympic games, and similar difficulties were found at the great boy scout jamboree when some
50,000 boy scouts paraded in London. They had difficulty in knowing just what was the flag of Canada. We hear also that at the San Francisco conference the Canadian red ensign 'held its place proudly with the flags of other nations.
From what I have said and from, what the minister has said it will be clear that the Canadian ensign has flown sometimes unauthorized, sometimes quite unofficially, and sometimes that ensign has been incorrectly designed; but it has flown alongside the union jack in some cases and in other cases by itself. As the .minister has said, much confusion has been created as to its use.
What is now being asked is that a flag should be recognized as a Canadian national flag for general use. The use of these unauthorized flags has not displaced the union jack, nor has it made it any the less the flag of our commonwealth. Neither would an authorized Canadian flag make that union jack any less authorized as the flag of the British commonwealth. Any British subject would have the right to fly the union jack in any part of the British empire.
As the minister stated, when dominion status was authorized for Australia and for New Zealand, the governments of those dominions immediately signallized that event by the adoption of their own flag. The loyalty of Australia and New Zealand to the crown or to the commonwealth cannot be questioned. The ' adoption of a national flag is just a coping stone in the edifice of dominion status. The question therefore arises: What flag
should Canada adopt?
At the present time the red ensign flies from the parliament buildings. That red ensign has a union jack in the left-hand comer with the armorial bearings of Canada in the fly. Those armorial bearings were granted to Canada to replace the previous crests that we had and which endeavoured to embrace the crests of the different provinces. In 1921 the then reigning monarch, King George V, whose interest in Canada, as well as in retaining the dignity of pageantry and tradition, were equally well known, took a personal interest in the adoption of our own armorial bearings, to which, after they had been reviewed by the college of heralds, he most readily gave his approval.
I do not think there is anyone who would not concede the beauty and appropriateness of our shiefd. This is really the royal crest, being differenced in one quarter so that the arms of old France might be displayed, while in the lower third on a field of silver is a sprig of three green maple leaves representing Canada. That crest carried on the fly of the
Canadian Flag

Canadian red ensign, and in fact that ensign itself, is symbolic of our history and of our unity under the crown. I submit that by long usage and ancient custom that flag has become closely identified with Canada. It is distinctive; no other land flag is just like it. It embodies all the features requisite for a national flag. It meets the requirements of *heraldic lore; it is a good flag, and one of which we can be proud.
The minister has said that now is the time to make a decision. I agree with him; now is the time to make a decision on this matter. The time of this parliament is short; we still have a heavy programme to get through, and I question the advisability of referring this question to a committee. Such a committee would have to consider hundreds of different designs which might be submitted; it would have to wade through pages of explanations.; it might open up bickerings over the question of artistic design; and the one thing we want to avoid when discussing this question of a national flag is the possibility of engendering any ill feeling at all.
There are a number of committees already sitting in this house. The Minister of Veterans Affairs has the veterans affairs committee, which he said was practically a full-time task for its members. It is a large committee, and embraces the greater number of those who have seen service either in the first great war or in the recently concluded struggle. I do not think that this parliament should set up a committee to discuss a matter which is so close to the hearts of those who have fought for this country without having representatives of those who have served, sitting on that committee. I therefore propose in all seriousness, prompted only with the idea of trying to expedite the work of this house, to meet the desires of the people of this country, and to ensure that there is unity among all classes and sections of our land, the following amendment to the resolution:
_ That all the words after the word "expedient" in the first line be struck out and the following substituted therefor:
". . . that Canada adopt the present Canadian red ensign as the official national flag."

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