Thursday, December 30, 2004

Top 5 Flag flaps

The mind boggles at the childishness that characterizes Canadian political disputes. For some reason, it often comes down to disputes over flags. For a nation that supposedly doesn't revere its flag the way the United States does, it still seems to figure prominently in our political discourse. Herewith, my top 5 flag-related flaps of the past forty years (feel free to add ones I have missed):

5) Flagscam (1990s) - Sheila Copps' initiative to promote Flag Day by distributing 1 million Canadian flags (one of which is in my possession). Later linked to the Chretien era national unity debacle in Quebec, it was hotly criticized at the time as a waste of taxpayer dollars.

4) You can change it, but I won't salute! (mid-1960s) - Nobody was more opposed to replacing the Red Ensign with the current maple leaf design than former PM John Diefenbaker. At the official flag raising ceremony, he refused to watch the hoisting of the new flag.

3) Trampling on the fleur-de-lys (late-1980s) - Quebec's language laws became front page news again in the late-1980s when portions of Bill 101 were struck down by the Supreme Court. Quebec responded by invoking the notwithstanding clause to pass Bill 178, and Premier Bourasssa famously commented that after Meech Lake passed, such a use of the clause would no longer be needed. Angered at what they saw as trampling on the rights of Quebec anglophones, a disgruntled pair of Brockvillians trampled on the fleur-de-lys, ensuring nationwide press coverage, and bumping up support for sovereignty by a few points.

2) Mine is bigger than yours, aka waving our dirty flags in public (late-1960s) - As Quebec began to feel its oats after the Quiet Revolution, a succession of Premiers, aided by French President de Gaulle, decided to go international, and attend conferences where sectors of provincial jurisdiction were involved. This led to a series of embarassing incidents in Gabon, Zaire and Niger, where warring Canadian and Quebec delegations (eventually joined by Ontario and New Brunswick) attended conferences of la Francophonie, and played childish games involving the size of their table flags.

1) I'm taking my toys and going home (this month) - One would think that the Premier of Newfoundland could think of a more appropriate response to frustration with the federal government over offshore oil revenues (soon to be the subject of its own post), than to order the removal of Canadian flags from provincial government buildings. But apparently not. It would seem that he doesn't, in fact, have better things to do than play the "blame Ottawa for all our woes" game. Because as we all know, Newfoundland had a thriving economy before it joined Canada in 1949. It wasn't bankrupt, heck no!

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At 3:56 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I, too, am in possession of one of Sheila's flags. And, sure, it was a waste of cash, but the 13 year old me really wanted that flag. I believe it was one of the first things I ever ordered over the internet.


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