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.
Subtopic: CANADIAN FLAG