The Images of a Country
Saskatchewan Council for Archives & Archivists
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Allegiances Not Only Dear But Sacred"

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Lester Pearson chose to announce his plans for a distinctive Canadian flag on Sunday, 17 May 1964 in an address to the Royal Canadian Legion's annual convention at Winnipeg. Throughout the flag debate, the Legion proved to be one of the most vociferous groups arguing for retention of the Red Ensign. Pearson had been advised against mentioning the flag issue at that forum, but felt that advice "impossible to accept."

Knowing in advance that Pearson would be speaking on the flag, veterans interrupted him shouts of "No, No, No," booing and catcalls; the hall was a sea of Red Ensign placards. Nevertheless Pearson continued, stating that Canada needed a national symbol to encourage unity.

Illustration from Punch magazine, honouring Canadian forces at Ypres, 1915.

For many veterans, having fought in two world wars and having seen their comrades die in Europe and Asia, the Red Ensign had come to symbolize their efforts and sacrifices; to replace it meant dismissing all they had done.

It was in part, however, precisely these acts of courage in two wars that had helped fuel a growing sense of national pride and independence in Canada, and had initiated earlier calls for a distinctive flag. Despite waging a very spirited public campaign for the Red Ensign, even veterans were divided on the issue.

Originals: wax crayon; Saskatchewan, n.d.

Red for the blood our Sons have shed for us and our Country. White stands for Purity. Blue stands for Bravery. The Maple Leaf our Emblem. Beaver and Wheat [Sheaf] are Symbols of our Country we should be very proud of.

The designs for a new flag are most interesting and pretty, but our reasons for loving the old flag is the remembrance of the men and women - both French and English speaking - who gave their lives for Canada, the land they loved.

No address, 8 October 1963

"Looks great!" Edwin McNally - Montreal Star


 2003 Diefenbaker Canada Centre Archives