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


Thomas Ashmore Kidd

Progressive Conservative


Why was it discarded? If at that time it was the wish of the government that it should be Canada's battle-flag, why is it not the flag which is flying over the parliament buildings at the present time? An Ottawa dispatch has this to say with reference to the Canadian flag:
The new flag is claimed to be more striking and gorgeous than any other national emblem. It is laid out on a gleaming white field, featuring the union jack, the fleur-de-lis and maple leaf. It provides, authorities claim, an ensign of proper heraldic significance for Canada.
And again:
If Canada is to have its own flag there could be no more suitable beginning than at this memorable moment and the true place for the flag's baptism is over the camp of Canada's first expeditionary force.
The Montreal Standard of February 17, 1945, makes this comment about the Canadian flag:
This is the flag w'hich now waves proudly over General McNaughton's headquarters in England, having been authorized for use by the Canadian active service force. It was seen for the first time when it flew at the masthead of the O.C.'s ship in the convoy which bore the first contingent to the other side. For the first time Canadians go overseas to fight with their own flag.
That was the sentiment with regard to the flag. I say that this is not the time for Canada to change her flag. The time is most inopportune, because some foreign observers, not understanding, might interpret such an occasion -to the effect that Canada is weakening her stand with the empire. When we think of all that the old flag stands for, all those who have lived under it and those who went away cheerfully to die for it, the principles for which
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it stands, could we really welcome another? Do you want to desert the union jack, that flag which has never deserted you?
Someone has written that we are all British .subjects and that the proper flag to fly on land to-day is the union jack. It is the flag under which we won our empire and the freedom which we all enjoy. It was under the union jack that Great Britain and the empire stood alone in the dark days of 1940. Just as the Prime Minister was wrong and made an error of judgment in attempting to comply with the wishes of his friends who were desirous of a new Canadian flag in 1925, he has set out now to mend his bridges. What do we find? On September 6, 1945, the speech from the throne carried' the following reference:
The. government has directed that, pending approval by parliament of a particular design, the Canadian red ensign which was the flag carried into battle by the Canadian army, and which was flown from the peace tower on V-K day and Y-J day as a tribute to the valour of our armed forces and to Canada's achievements in war, may be displayed wherever place or occasion makes it desirable to fly a distinctive Canadian flag.
On September 21, the Toronto Globe and Mail carried a dispatch of an interview with the Secretary of State (Mr. Martin) as follows:
Of them all, Mr. Martin said: "They show that Canadians all across the country are keenly interested in a distinctive national flag. You can see that they . . . have put genuine time, thought and skill into their work.
Just at that time the Minister of Finance (Mr. Ilsley) saw fit to give the Canadian ensign precedence over the union jack in the literature for the national war finance committee as set out for his present victory loan. These statements and actions are by no means an accident; they are carefully planned and thought out.
Sometimes one hesitates to say very much about the union jack and the British empire, because a certain so-called1 type of Britisher who has come to Canada during the last few years accuses Canadians who take the stand on behalf of Canada and the empire, as being more British than the British, but to that element I would say: You are more Canadian than the Canadians. Can one go so far as to visualize what would happen in Canada should the present union jack be supplemented by a new flag? The same element never fails to mention the statute of Westminster and the British commonwealth of nations. [DOT]
I happened to be in the British isles, and I visited Eire, the south of Ireland, in 1932 when the imperial conference was meeting
here in Ottawa. One bright spot of that conference was the publicity Canada and Ottawa received in the London papers. Each day the London Times ran an Ottawa column. However, on visiting Dublin I found a most hostile feeling toward Great Britain. Dozens of flags of all the various nations of the world were flying on the docks, but there was one particular flag absent, the union jack. There is no doubt in the world that if this parliament changes the union jack it. would please the element who hold the same views as Mr. de Valera and his followers, and it would be only a short time until the union jack disappeared.
Arguments are being set forth by those who support a new flag for Canada, that Canada should have a new governor general, that our Canadian national anthem should replace "God save the King", and they refer to Australia, South Africa and the Olympic sports. All these points were set forth by the Prime Minister in 1938. Conditions have not changed materially since then, with the exception of the odd few legations which have been opened.
This afternoon the minister referred to various dates upon which this flag question was dealt with, but he did not refer to what occurred in this house two years ago. On July 5, 1943, at page 4332 of Hansard, the following questions were asked by the hon. member for Quebec-Montmorency (Mr. LaCroix):
1. In the event of a victory for the united nations in Europe, will the Canadian forces take part in the victory parade?
2. If so, what flag will be used to show their nationality?
1. Have the United States forces now' in England a national flag?
2. Have the Australian, New Zealand and South African forces now serving outside of their respective territories a national flag?
3. Have the British forces now serving outside of England a national flag?
4. Have the Canadian forces now serving outside of Canadian territory a national flag?
5. If so, what flag is it? If not, why?
1. Is the red ensign, in which the Union Jack appears at the top left quarter, near the pole, and the arms of Canada at the fly end, the official flag of Canada?
2. If so, why is this flag not displayed on the main tower of the parliament buildings?
3. If not, has Canada a national flag?
I refer to that because it is interesting to note what the Prime Minister said at that time. He is reported on page 4333 of Hansard of July 5, 1943, as follows:
I must say, Mr. Speaker, that in reading over these questions I have asked myself several times whether the hon. member who has asked them does appreciate that at the present time

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the world is engaged in a war in which the whole future of civilization anil freedom itself is at stake. The questions are not asked for the purpose of securing information, because I have already answered questions with regard to a Canadian flag. They are asked to add fuel to a possible flame of controversy with respect to the flag in a time of war. I refuse to make any further answer to the hon. member with respect to the questions which he has asked in regard to the flag.
At this time surely hon. members of parliament must realize that there is a condition existing in the world that is more serious than any that has ever existed heretofore. They must further, if they are at all appreciative of what is reported in the press from day to day, realize that events the like of which none of us is able to contemplate are likely to take place in the course of a very few days, if I may go that far. In these circumstances, Mr. Speaker, is this country to have a flag controversy to be added to the other factors that may make for disunion at a time when above all else unity is required?
So he continued:
I speak with feeling, Mr. Speaker, because I believe that before this summer is over this house will have strong reason to see the wisdom of not permitting anything in the nature of controversy' to anise at this time when there is need for the greatest possible unity on all sides.
The questions brought up by the hon. member for Quebec-Montmorency (Mr. LaCroix) and the answers of the Prime Minister are most enlightening. What happened?
One would have considered that the remarks on that occasion by the Prime Minister would have been final, but it is most interesting to see what happened the same afternoon, only a few minutes afterwards.
The Minister of Justice (Mr. St. Laurent), who is also member for Quebec East, speaking on an amendment to the British North America Act to postpone the adjustments to representation, interjected the flag issue and spoke at some length, taking that opportunity of making known his views. What did he say? I quote now from Hansard of Monday, July 5, 1943, page 4338:
On the merits, no one can deny that it would be reasonable for the Canadian nation to signify its national status by a distinctive national flag and a distinctive national anthem. Who among us was not deeply moved when he heard Mr. Anthony Eden describe the landing in the British isles of our first expeditionary-force in this war?
He also placed on Hansard Mr. Anthony Eden's description of the Canadians landing in the British isles, as well as an article which appeared in Saturday Night. He further commented, as reported in Hansard, pagr 4338:
. . . desirable as it may be to have a distinctive flag and a distinctive anthem, the selection of the flag and the selection of the anthem would) he apt to give rise to such differences of opinion and such debates that it seems the
counsel of wisdom not to take our minds off the problems of the war in these critical days to devote the necessary time and attention to debates about matters which, though they are important, are nevertheless of concern only to ourselves.
My particular reason for bringing this to the attention of the house is this. Here we have the hon. member for Quebec-Montmorency placing this question on the order paper, and the hon. member for Quebec East going out of his way to express his views. Are we to understand that it is from this quarter that pressure is being put upon the Prime Minister to take the action he now does?
The Minister of Justice seemed delighted with the idea of placing on Hansard a comment to this effect:
If the strains of "0 Canada" announcing to the British people that Canada was fighting by their side, were a noble and inspiring element in one of the great scenes of history, why should not a Canadian flag, proclaiming to all the world the same announcement eves before the music broke, have been equally noble and inspiring?
May I say to the Minister of Justice that I differ from his view. I hesitate to be personal in my remarks, *but the fact that in 1914-thirty-one years ago-and at that time you, sir, were thirty-one years younger than you are to-day-the first men to leave Quebec city were those who had the honour to serve in the Eighth Royal regiment under the command of Colonel (later Sir) David Watson. These men from Quebec city were brought together to form the old original Second Battalion, First Division, with whom I had the honour to serve.
With these men from Quebec city in the Eighth Royal regiment we all went through Valcartier and Salisbury Plains, boarded the steamer Cassandra of the Donaldson lines, sailed with the first convoy across the Atlantic, landed at Plymouth, and the boys from Quebec and Ontario went down the same gangplank together. In those days it was "God Save the King" and the union jack.
The trouble in Canada has been that the demand for a new flag has been most vehemently urged by Canadians who have no sentimental attachment to the British isles and are inclined to be more critical of England than of any other country.
Does the Prime Minister intend to pass further orders in council re the flag? Does he intend to make his desire for a new flag retroactive? Who is asking for a new flag? The women's organizations, the Canadian Legion and the Canadian Corps Association have not embarked on a campaign for a new flag. Business houses and service centres find
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it possible to continue doing business without a "distinctive flag." Veterans and returned soldiers are not asking for the union jack to be done away with. Why should the Prime Minister, on the authority of an order in council, replace the union jack by the red: ensign at the opening of parliament, when he designated the red 'ensign as a makeshift flag? There is no doubt in the world that the introduction of the resolution is nothing more than another one of those election promises of the Prime Minister, made to those supporters of his who year in and year out have been on his doorstep seeking this change. So that I would make these general observations on the subject.
It is difficult to understand the anxiety of the government to launch this question of a new Canadian flag at this time. The government has in the past six years been very diligent in proclaiming its desire to preserve "Canadian unity".
No subject will rend the nation from the Atlantic to the Pacific as completely as the discussion of this subject at this time. Why is it necessary? There is sufficient confusion at present. It is probable that the whole matter will be misunderstood and be pointed to as evidence that Canada is taking advantage of her present success to weaken imperial ties.
The union jack has served through three wars: the South African, the first world war of 1914-18, and 1939-45. We are proud of the position won by our fighting men in these wars and their service was always under the union jack.
In churches, in public buildings, in memorial halls, the union jack has been placed to represent the sentiments of all who have served and made sacrifices, even unto life itself. Is this the time to raise any discussion as to whether it should be replaced by a flag .that has had no association with these efforts?
One of our greatest dangers to-day is that we as legislators may misunderstand the feelings of those who have served and make wrong use of the service that they have rendered. I submit that this subject should be left until they are once more back in Canadian life and are prepared to act in regard to this matter.
It may be stated that the use of the red ensign during this war indicates the present need of a change. As a matter of fact, it was used as a map location and designated the position of the Canadian army much in the same way as the patches designated the division to which a soldier belonged.

It was a matter of great surprise to many people and created doubts in their minds when the red ensign and not the union jack was used over the parliament buildings at the opening of parliament.
It was only a few years ago that our Prime Minister designated the red ensign as a "makeshift flag". Is it now being used for the same purpose ?
I submit that no good purpose will be served at this present time by distracting the minds of the Canadian people with such a discussion as will assuredly lead to much bitterness.
The fact that this resolution has been tabled as a government measure makes it difficult if not impossible for government supporters in all parties to take any other position than a party view of it.
This should be opposed by all citizens independent of party allegiance.
In closing, may I say that I know of no place in the British empire more sacred than the grave of the Unknown Soldier at Westminster. Those who have been there will have seen the tablet, and on it the inscription:
For God
For King and Country
For Loved Ones-Home and Empire
For the Sacred cause of Justice and Freedom of the World
1930-Nov. 11th.
The tablet is there. The flag is there. At the first column to the left you will see the old union jack of the empire; and when inquiries are made, where did the union jack come from? You are told that it is known as the padre's flag, the flag wrapped around many of the soldiers of the last war who paid the supreme sacrifice.

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