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Five Things every Canadian should know about the Maple Leaf, 50 next month

January 13, 2015 - 1:09 PM

OTTAWA - Canada's iconic Maple Leaf flag turns 50 next month. Five things every self-respecting Canadian ought to know about its history:

The flag was conceived on Oct. 22, 1964. Well, sort of. That's the date the flag selection committee voted, unanimously choosing the Maple Leaf design as the new Canadian flag. The vote was sent on to Parliament and the flag was officially adopted on Feb. 15, 1965.

Its origins remain the subject of fierce debate. Some insist Dr. George Stanley, inspired by the commandant's flag at Kingston's Royal Military College, designed the flag; others say Brockville's John Ross Matheson, a Liberal MP, is due most of the credit.

It was controversial from the outset. The Globe and Mail wrote of the new flag in an editorial in December 1964: "Flags that have been torn in battle with a foreign enemy can still fly with pride. This will surely be the first flag in history that was shred by its sons."

John Diefenbaker was not a fan. Diefenbaker, the Opposition leader, fought bitterly against Lester Pearson's plans to adopt a new flag, even losing one party member in the process. Leon Balcer, a Tory MP from Trois-Rivières, broke ranks with Diefenbaker over the flag and left the party to sit as an Independent.

Neither was Quebec. Liberal MP Pierre Trudeau suggested much of Quebec was apathetic about the flag. "Quebec does not give a tinker's damn about the new flag," he said. "It's a matter of complete indifference."

Source: "The Flags of Canada," by Alistair B. Fraser; "Lester B. Pearson: Extraordinary Canadians," by Andrew Cohen.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2015
The Canadian Press

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