National Patriotism Only at Half-Mast

By Jason Menard

It’s fitting that Canadians, frequently referred to as quiet, shy, and unassuming, would let the anniversary of the birth of our flag with nary but a whisper. But the time has come to raise the Maple Leaf and celebrate our heritage.

And, hell, an extra statutory holiday in February wouldn’t be bad either, would it?

At the stroke of midnight on Feb. 15 th our flag flew for the first time. And while the design and the process created quite the ruckus 41 years ago, for many of us – my generation included – the Maple Leaf has always been a source of pride and distinction that helps to set us apart from the rest of the world.

The reveal of this flag, with its heraldic description reading gules on a Canadian pale argent a maple leaf of the first, did more than just sever the visual bonds to our colonial forebears, it – almost as much as Confederation itself – announced to the world that Canada was its own country.

And while people may have mocked its design over 40 years ago, one would be hard-pressed to find a Canadian today who doesn’t look in appreciation at the flag that represents us all. It is instantly identifiable amongst the world’s emblems and carries with it generations of goodwill around the world.

Yet our national day of recognition for this fine flag comes and goes with a majority of people paying scant – if any – attention to its significance. We have made Canada Day our de facto celebration of the flag, yet its mid-February official celebration passes in relative obscurity.

As a rule, Canadians bear their pride in their hearts, they don’t wear it on their sleeve like our neighbours to the south. We have an intrinsic appreciation of what it means to be Canadian and a pride in the quality of life we have and our general appreciation for those around us. However, we don’t often feel the need to shout from the rooftops and proclaim our love for our great nation. We either don’t possess, or choose not to show, the fervent passion that defines not just our American neighbours, but citizens of countries around the world.

Perhaps it’s Canada’s Commonwealth Heritage that impedes our expression of pride. We retain a bit of the stiff-upper-lip mentality that is so stereotypical of the British and their colonies. Compare that with the rampant passion for the Fleur de Lys in Quebec. Is it the Gallic blood that boils hotter? Is there a reason why I’ve experienced more excitement and dynamism at a Fete Nationale parade (formerly known as St-Jean-Baptiste Day) than I ever have at any Canada Day celebration?

That shouldn’t be. We should cast off the shackles of our reservations and proclaim our pride for our country for all to see. Yes, we can still be frustrated with our government. Yes, we can continue to find things to improve within the country. Yes, we can ascribe to the philosophy that good enough just isn’t! But what we need to do is be appreciative not only for what we have, but for who we are.

Without sounding like a beer commercial, Canada truly is a great place to live. We have a great respect for life and for each other – despite our differences in politics, religion, and lifestyle. We have a respect for personal freedom combined with the need to ensure the best interests of society as a whole. We display a level of compassion and a capacity for understanding that’s world-class.

So why not celebrate all that we have? Why not raise the flag and let it fly high for all to see. Why not take pride in this visual representation of who we are.

The world looks at Canada’s flag and appreciates its unique nature – why can’t we do the same for ourselves. Why is it so hard to be a proud Canadian when we have so much to be proud of?

Maybe, just maybe, if we dedicate a day to recognizing how special our flag is, we’ll start to understand how special we all are.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

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