This house has been discussing since the middle of June the resolution introduced by the government, for the adoption of a distinctive Canadian flag.
As early as January 27, 1960, when he was leader of the opposition, the right hon. Prime Minister of Canada (Mr. Pearson) stated clearly the position of the Liberal party on this flag question. At that time, he proposed
to the then Conservative government to put before parliament legislation which, and I quote:
-if it were adopted by the representatives of the people, would settle the Issue of our national flag; parliament would then agree to adopt a distinctive flag which, unlike the red ensign to which parliament has never given official recognition, could not be mistaken for the flag of the United Kingdom or some colonies and could be easily identified as the Canadian flag.
Is it not consistent that now that he has become the leader of the Canadian government, the right hon. Prime Minister should propose a resolution in order to give Canada a distinctive national flag?
Like many other members, the right hon. Prime Minister received a number of letters from people complaining about measures that might be taken to replace the red ensign. The Prime Minister answered to those bona fide correspondents that he wanted to assure them of his unqualified respect for the union jack and the red ensign and for all they represent of our history and traditions as symbols of freedom and democracy. Nevertheless, it is time that Canada should be given a distinctive flag which would have the top position on the mast.
Canada has been waiting for a flag long enough. I am both happy and proud to see that the government has now seen fit to take steps in that direction. Our confederation will soon be a hundred years old. Discussions on the flag have been going on for years, right from the very beginning of our confederation, and until now it has always seemed that no agreement was possible. Will any further delay in finally adopting a national flag make for better understanding?
With the coming of the centennial and the world fair, there are other reasons besides the basic ones for adopting a distinctive flag now. There is the matter of convenience which should not be minimized.
Indeed, it is inconceivable that this country could welcome millions of visitors to those great events without being able to fly a flag unmistakably its own.
Since every country has its flag, why should Canada be an exception? The flag is actually a factor of national unity, in peacetime as well as in wartime. If other proposed flags are controversial, it is all the more necessary to cast them aside and start anew with a new emblem.
Now, the other flags mentioned, which were not approved officially but only tolerated, give rise to controversy. Therefore, they should be discarded as distinctive flags. As a country,
Canada takes part in all important international conferences. It is a middle power, but with bright prospects for future development in every respect. And such a country would be without a distinctive flag? You will admit that this is paradoxical.
Former generations were cautious on this subject. They did not jeopardize the future. The government is now convinced that Canada should have its own flag and it gives praise to the previous leaders who, in their wisdom, refrained from tying its hands in this connection.
The time has come for Canada to choose a permanent distinctive flag that will be kept by future generations since it will have been given a "clear" and official status.
All the present differences will be forgotten if this house puts aside narrow considerations and sectional interests to take the proper decision which is quite simple, that of giving the country an emblem which will be respected both at home and abroad, an emblem that will confirm the good reputation our country enjoys throughout the world, as travellers back from Europe, Asia and Africa can testify.
It has been said that the flag issue was liable to create emotional rather than rational reactions. Mr. Speaker, if the flag issue can give rise to purely emotional reactions, it can also be objectively dealt with as any other problem. It is up to us, as members of parliament, to be rational. Now, to give the country a distinctive flag for reasons of convenience, especially to consolidate unity among Canadians, is not an emotional but a rational issue.
Regardless of the emblem selected, there will undoubtedly be few but vocal reactionaries and disgruntled people. It is not possible to satisfy everybody. Considering the information gathered by the members of the house as a whole and after thinking the matter over and listening to a debate which has been going on for several weeks, I am firmly convinced that the people of the ten provinces want a distinctive flag.
I think that an autonomous country such as Canada has been since the Statute of Westminster has to adopt a flag whose design will not be reminiscent of any other country. Why should the country's emblem include reminders of Canada's ties with England and not with France? On the other hand, if we were to adopt a flag representing the two former hegemonies, ' it would be necessary to load the flag with complicated symbols and it would still not satisfy anyone. It is better to eliminate the symbols recalling France or
England and thus not only prevent differences ot opinion from continuing unabated but also prevent the new flag from becoming unacceptable to new Canadians who make up a large percentage of our population.
Thus we would have a common flag for the whole population, a flag which would not perpetuate the old quarrels we want to forget, which is a great advantage. The inclusion of symbols representing the motherlands would only feed old grudges. The adoption of a distinctive flag seems to be the only sound way to put an end to useless discussions on that issue.
The three maple leaves, the central element of the proposed flag, seem a logical choice since they represent Canada. Many pages of our literature, in both French and English, are devoted to the maple leaf. They contain many references to the maple tree which is quite representative of our country not because it is exclusive to Canada but because, due to its profusion and beauty, its praises have been sung by Canadian poets and lyrics writers.
Hon. members should not prolong this debate unnecessarily by lengthy discussions of details. That is why I prefer to stick with a distinctive flag containing three maple leaves rather than risk embroiling matters and putting off the selection of a distinctive flag indefinitely.
The hon. member for Vancouver Quadra said in the house, on June 30 last:
I believe Canada needs not only a distinctive flag but a distinctive Canadian spirit.
That distinctive spirit should be embodied in a flag whose judicial status is well established. It should represent all Canadians and, in my opinion, the three maple leaves flag should be the national flag of Canada and should prevail over all those which we had in the past.
The point here is not to please French Canadians any more than others, as suggested in certain narrow-minded political quarters. But if we take a look at history, we must admit that French Canadians have special reasons to favour the maple leaf flag, having been pioneers in the development of the west as well as the east, through their daring explorers and missionaries, laymen and clerics as well.
English speaking people of good will could not, any more than French Canadians, repudiate the distinctive flag proposed. Canada is the common country of the descendants of French and English pioneers. It has become gradually the country of immigrants of all nationalities who chose to come here 20220-462-J
to start a new life that had become impossible for them in their country of origin and gave Canada the best of their talents and industry. No one among those three groups should stand against the adoption of a flag which is long overdue. On the contrary, everyone should look forward with enthusiasm to the day when it will fly on high in the Canadian sky.
Topic: EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Subtopic: CANADIAN FLAG