February 14, 1962 (24th Parliament, 5th Session)


Margaret Aitken

Progressive Conservative

Miss Margaret Aitken (York-Humber):

Mr. Speaker, debate on the flag issue has now become an annual event in the House of Commons and not only one bill but two or three are introduced every session. I find that every time we have a debate on this matter in the house there is very great interest outside. I know that my mail is always a great deal heavier after one of these debates.
There is no doubt that more and more people want a distinctive flag and where the controversy arises is in the interpretation of the word "distinctive". At the outset may I say that my interpretation of the word "distinctive" does include the union jack. I

Flags of Canada
noticed that the hon. member for Drummond-Arthabaska (Mr. Boulanger) told us that his leader had promised to bring in a flag within two years if he should come to power, but the hon. member did not tell us whether the Union jack was going to be a part of that distinctive flag. I include myself among many thousands of Canadians who want a distinctive flag and yet obviously I mean something quite different from what other people mean, in fact quite different from what many members of this house mean.
Having spoken a good many times in the house on this subject, I can only reiterate some of the points I have made before. Certainly I think that none of us on either side of the house wants this matter to become a political football. To all patriotic Canadians a flag is something that affects the emotions and it would be a great pity, in fact, a national tragedy in my opinion, if party politics were allowed to enter into the matter or if it became a referendum issue. I think that would be one of the greatest dangers to national unity.
One reads periodic tirades against politicians for not moving faster on the subject of a flag. Personally I have never blamed the Liberals for moving slowly, as they did, because I think the decision of choosing a flag is a momentous one which will not only affect us in our time but will affect Canadians for generations to come. All of us have received scores of suggestions for a new flag. I presume that the designers of these sometimes extraordinary flags have their reasons for the emblems and colours that they use. My reason for wanting the union jack in our flag is because that design is part of our history.
A couple of years ago in the Canadian Commentator, W. I. Hearst of Toronto wrote a letter in which he made a very good point. This is what he said:
A flag not grounded in a country's history and tradition is nothing more than a label such as one finds on a can of tomatoes.
Mr. Hearst went on to say that our system of laws, method of government, literature and culture, all came from Britain. Then, he said:
No matter how racially mixed the population of Canada may become, she is permanently stamped with British tradition.
I have never forgotten a speech the hon. member for Marquette (Mr. Mandziuk) made on this subject of a flag. He said people were wrong to think that our different ethnic groups were against the inclusion of the union jack. Indeed, he went so far as to say they were content with the union jack, itself, as a flag. It had become the symbol of freedom and human dignity to peoples all over the world.

One argument heard against inclusion of the union jack in our new flag is that old bugaboo about British sovereignty over Canada. This is absolute nonsense, and every thinking Canadian knows it. We are an independent nation with complete control over our own affairs. If there is any kind of foreign influence upon Canada, it certainly does not come from Britain. There is no argument any more on that basis.
One of Canada's greatest daily columnists, the late J. V. McAree, wrote his last column on March 25, 1958 on this very subject of a flag. He concluded in these words:
The union jack and God Save the Queen have inspired millions and have been the source of countless deeds of heroism. It will take a long time for a new flag and a new anthem to build up this great tradition they have established.
Another argument against inclusion of the union jack in a Canadian flag is that it has no symbol in it to represent the French part of our nation. This may be true, although all Canadians have lived together and prospered under the union jack, both as a colony and a sovereign country. It is part of both our histories. I cannot see why, at this time, we should erase it altogether from the future pages of our history. If our French speaking Canadians feel that the union jack has no symbolic significance to them, then by all means let us have a fleur-de-lis or anything else they want, just as long as we include the union jack.
I think a referendum would be one of the worst things we could do. Canadians are people who have learned the benevolent art of compromise. We should practice that virtue in choosing a distinctive flag. We represent the people here, and we represent their views, and to take the issue to the people would, in my opinion, be the greatest danger to our unity.

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