Get PJ Media on your Apple

PJM Lifestyle

Father of the Canadian Flag Dies, Aged 96

Canada's "maple leaf" is one of the most readily recognized flags on earth. Meet the man who was given six weeks to come up with it, back in 1964.

by
Kathy Shaidle

Bio

December 30, 2013 - 2:35 pm
From pop artist Charles Pachter's series of Canadian flag paintings

From pop artist Charles Pachter’s series of Canadian flag paintings

Will the flag he championed fly at half-mast?

That was my first thought upon hearing that World War II veteran-turned Member of Parliament John Ross Matheson passed away last Friday.

Given his keen amateur interest in heraldry, Matheson was the perfect choice to lead Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson’s quest to create a new Canadian flag, one that would symbolically separate the former colony from Great Britain.

Canada’s unofficial flag had long been the “Red Ensign,” a combination of the British Union Jack and the Canadian coat of arms.

It’s true: almost a hundred years after Confederation, we still had no official national flag.

As the big centenary neared, the Liberal government figured we’d better finally get our act together.

Not everyone was enthusiastic about getting rid of the Red Ensign, of course.

As tends to happen up here, whatever the ostensible topic, the resulting parliamentary debate turned into a sometimes heated national conversation about “Canadian identity.”

A committee was struck and informed that they had six weeks to come up with a design. (Nope, not “months” or “years.”)

The committee asked Canadians to send in suggestions, with predictable results.

I like the one with one of The Beatles in each corner — it was 1964, after all.

And to this day, not everyone loves the final design. I doubt I’m the first person to opine that a dead leaf — basically tree dandruff — isn’t the noblest national symbol.

However, I can’t deny that purely from a design (and therefore, a marketing) perspective, Canada’s new flag has been a great success.

Just ask the countless Americans who supposedly sew them onto their knapsacks before their treks through Europe, hoping for warmer welcomes.

During his tenure, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has achieved what many would’ve called impossible:┬áHe’s made it “cool” for Canadians to show their patriotism through flag waving, long scorned as an “American” gesture.

Yet I doubt that before today, many younger Canadians could name “the father of the flag.”

This widely aired, corny old “Heritage Minute” commercial celebrates John Matheson’s efforts. I expect it will be getting quite a few hits this week.

YouTube Preview Image

(KATHY SHAIDLE is a blogging pioneer who runs FiveFeetOfFury, now in its 15th year. She's been called "one of the great virtuoso polemicists of our time," by MARK STEYN. Her NEW book is Confessions of A Failed Slut (Thought Catalog, 2014).

Comments are closed.

All Comments   (16)
All Comments   (16)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
Visit Canada.
Outside of Toronto, it is full (well, actually physically empty) of nice people with actual friendliness. As an American, I was on guard, but on multiple trips realized they weren't all trying to screw me.
Let us stand on guard for thee, O Canada!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
What gets me is how many lefties just love the Pearson Pennant (as it was and still is derogatively known) all the while disdaining any memory of the Red Ensign, and yet virtually none of them know (as lemon's link below makes clear) that the Maple Leaf flag was based on the College Colour of the Royal Military College (my alma mater). How many of their heads would explode at learning that little bit of history?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Shoulda been three snowshoes stuck into a keg on a field of white with a BIG Moose in the background...
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This Canadian has always thought the flag looked like hippies made it. We should have kept something British in it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I think there's a lot more Canadian nationalism then you like to let on.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Sure there is. However, there's also a lot of understanding of where our jobs and prosperity come from. And it's not the Council of Canadians.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I know many Canadian conservatives, including the great Mark Steyn, still don't like it but, I for one, think it's one of the few things the Liberals ever got right. Even if they did it in the colours of their party. Whoever is responsible for it, good work.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Hi Lemon, as you can imagine, there is some dispute over who should get credit. The Canadian Design Resource Centre has a bunch of names, including Don Watt.

http://www.canadiandesignresource.ca/symbols/national-flag-of-canada/
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Great guy - deserves respect... But he wasn't the designer or father. That was his close and old friend George Stanley.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Stanley
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Well Cathy you may think the maple leaf flag is ho hum, but I'm an immigrant and that same flag makes my heart sing.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
View All