Former Canadian flag, the Red Ensign, gets new, darker life as far-right symbol | National Post

Sigh …:

When five members of the anti-immigration, alt-right Proud Boys strode into a Halifax park on Canada Day to confront Indigenous protesters, the Canadian flag they carried was more than 50 years out of date.

With a Union Jack in the corner and a coat of arms on a red background, the Canadian Red Ensign held aloft by one member has largely disappeared from public view since it was replaced in 1965 by the Maple Leaf.

But the Red Ensign, a variation of which Canadian troops fought under in both world wars, has recently taken on a darker symbolism, adopted as Canada’s equivalent of the Confederate flag by some extremists here.

The perversion of the Red Ensign was first observed among white supremacists, who saw it as a throwback to a time when Canadians were overwhelmingly white and of European extraction.

Anti-immigrant protests by the Aryan Guard in Calgary featured the Red Ensign as far back as 2008, and photos showed group members decorated their apartments with the flag alongside a Nazi flag and a Confederate flag.

When John Beattie, who founded the Canadian Nazi Party in the 1960s and remains a white supremacist, ran for municipal office in 2014, a reporter noted that he flew the Red Ensign flag at his home.

 Notorious white nationalist Paul Fromm has campaigned to have the Red Ensign returned as Canada’s flag, calling it “the flag of the true Canada, the European Canada before the treasonous European replacement schemes brought in by the 1965 immigration policies.”

Northern Dawn, a Canadian alt-right website launched last year to defend Western heritage against “chaos,” has used the Red Ensign as its Facebook cover photo. In a July 1 essay on the site, Gerry Neal decried the 1965 replacement of the Red Ensign with the current flag as evidence of a Liberal revision of national symbolism “to eliminate reference to our British heritage.”

Anti-Racist Canada has been tracking the growing popularity of the Red Ensign among extremist groups for years. A spokesperson, who for safety reasons asked to be identified only as Chris, said racists have adopted the Red Ensign “to represent a time when Canada was a ‘white man’s country.’ They view the flag that flies in Canada today as an abomination representing multiculturalism and diversity.

“If you attend any far-right rally or march in Canada, there is a very good chance that, along with ‘white pride,’ Nazi, and Confederate flags, you will also see the Red Ensign being flown rather than the Maple Leaf.”

For the Royal Canadian Legion, which flies the Red Ensign outside its headquarters and includes the flag in its official colour party, the idea that it has been adopted by extremists is hard to stomach.

“There is significant and genuine affection for the Red Ensign in the veterans’ community of Canada for the reason that wars were fought and lives were lost under that flag,” Bill Maxwell, secretary of the Legion’s Poppy and Remembrance Committee, said.

“Canadians fought for the freedoms we enjoy today. I don’t think they fought to have the Red Ensign denigrated in such a manner, quite frankly.”

Caitlin Bailey, executive director of the Canadian Centre for the Great War, in Montreal, said the Red Ensign was a symbol of unity as a young nation went to war. It was the flag that flew over Vimy Ridge to signal its 1917 capture by Canadian troops.

“It’s unfortunate that it has turned into a white nationalist symbol,” she said. “It’s not right, and it flies in the face of what the Red Ensign means.”

C.P. Champion, editor of the history journal the Dorchester Review, recently wrote in support of greater prominence for the Canadian Red Ensign, arguing it should fly permanently at the National War Memorial in Ottawa.

He said in an interview that he was disappointed when the self-described traditionalists of the Proud Boys were captured on video provoking Indigenous protesters with the flag.

“It looked like it was trivializing, or treating as a kind of talisman of defiance, a flag that has a much more venerable and mainstream role,” Champion said. “I’ve always thought it’s important not to let traditional symbols be appropriated by fringe elements.”

Source: Former Canadian flag, the Red Ensign, gets new, darker life as far-right symbol | National Post

ICYMI – the Duck: The maple leaf flag embodies Canada’s national amnesia | C.P. Champion

Historian and former CPC staffer Champion on the current and former flags (under former Minister Jason Kenney, the Red Ensign was displayed at some citizenship ceremonies if memory serves me correct but the Conservative government declined to provide it more official status as Champion recommends):

There is much to celebrate on Canada’s 150th, and there will be no shortage of Canadian flags fluttering about. But the maple leaf flag is also the perfect embodiment of our national amnesia.

Unlike Canada’s original flag—the Canadian Red Ensign—the maple leaf tells no story of our country. The Red Ensign, by comparison, vividly embodies Canada’s rich history, inclusive of First Nations, the fleur-de-lis, and the diversity represented by Scottish, English and Irish symbols.

This history dates back much further than 1867. Canada’s traditions were shaped by the first colonists, the Conquest of 1759, the policies of Lord Dorchester, the resilience of His Majesty’s new French Catholic subjects, generations of American and British immigrants, and First Nations who prospered in the pre-Industrial era and understood themselves as proud, though cautious, allies of the King.

Jon Fogg, Saint James Marine operator, left, and his daughter-in-law Wendy Fogg, unfurl the original Canadian Red Ensign flag that flew over the S.S. Keewatin. Darren Calabrese/National Post

When these old colonies were reimagined and set on a new footing in the 1860s, four distinct Provincial shields were combined on the Red Ensign, which was flown by Sir John A. Macdonald. Lord Stanley, the governor-general, and Henri Bourassa, a French Canadian nationalist, both recognized the Red Ensign as a distinctive Canadian flag. After 1921, the flag bore the shield from Canada’s new coat of arms.

When Canadian soldiers took Juno Beach on June 6, 1944 (D-Day) they carried this Canadian flag ashore. Through Normandy and the Netherlands, between the Maas and the Rhine, under the Klever Tor at Xanten, in liberated Nijmegen, Arnhem, and Groningen: as the Reich flag was lowered across Western Europe, the Canadian flag was unfurled among the banners of victory. In 1945, there could be no doubt that “Canada had a flag,” as John Diefenbaker later said, “a flag ennobled by heroes’ blood.”

The Red Ensign was replaced by the red maple leaf in 1964, recommended in the sixth report of a parliamentary committee, voted for by 178 MPs in a discordant House of Commons, and implemented by a minority government led by a jittery Lester Pearson. Why the jitters? Because the old flag was so popular. As Senator Marcel Prud’homme, an M.P. in 1964, told me in 2007: “You see, we had to kill the Red Ensign” — so that the fledgling maple would have no rival.

Many celebrated the new dawn. The late Lt. Gen. Charles Belzile, who witnessed the maple’s raising for the first time while serving as a young soldier in Cyprus in 1965, told me: “It sure looked pretty good against those green hills!”

But the new flag also had its critics. Historian Marcel Trudel warned in 1964 that Canada’s new flag had “no historic significance” and was “a lamentable failure.” “I am convinced, for my part,” he said, “that any flag, if it is to be truly significant, must contain or represent the symbols of the nation or nations which contributed to establishing the country.”

First Nations leaders were strongly attached to the old flag. James Gladstone, a Blood (Kainai) appointed to the Senate in 1958 said: “Personally I do not want to see any other flag flying but the Red Ensign.” Many chiefs had received a Union Jack as a ceremonial seal on treaties: “Under these symbols of justice, we feel safe. Take them away from us and it will be another sign that we are not safe.”

While the national flag is obviously here to stay, Ottawa should accord the old flag official status as “The Canadian Red Ensign.” It should fly permanently alongside the Canadian flag at the National War Memorial — after all, it’s the flag our soldiers actually fought under. It should fly at war memorials everywhere, and at obvious locations such as the Canadian War Museum grounds. And finally, a Red Ensign should wave permanently above the East Block of Parliament as a symbol of our heritage of freedom.

Source: Beyond the Duck: The maple leaf flag embodies Canada’s national amnesia | National Post

How Ontario travelled back in time as Canada moved forward: Cohn

Martin Regg Cohn on Ontario’s provincial flag and how it was a counter-reaction to the new Canadian flag 50 years ago:

While our flag looks and feels old, it is actually younger than the bold and modern Maple Leaf design of 1965. And was very much a reaction to the convulsive national flag debate led by then-prime minister Lester B. Pearson.

A former career diplomat, Pearson understood from his foreign travels that Canada’s emerging national identity demanded a flag that bespoke more than its colonial heritage. Yet in Parliament, Progressive Conservative opposition leader John Diefenbaker raged against the Maple Leaf as a betrayal of our British antecedents.

Tapping into that vein of resentment, Robarts’s PC government embraced the remnants of the discarded Union Jack design — and made it Ontario’s own ensign.

Until 1965, our national flag had featured a miniature Union Jack in the upper left quadrant and our coat of arms to the right — lumping Canada with other former British colonies boasting nearly indistinguishable and interchangeable flags. When Ottawa discarded that template, Ontario adopted it.

While retaining the Union Jack image, Robarts substituted Ontario’s Shield of Arms where the Canadian symbol had once been. The legislature quickly adopted the premier’s suggestion, though one dissenting MPP dubbed it a “revenge flag.”

And very much a reactionary response.

Parliament had chosen a flag for the future that captured the national spirit in early 1965. The Legislature had reacted, three months later, by travelling back in time to conjure up a flag of the past inspired more by tit for tat than tradition.

As Canada renounced the Union Jack, Ontario revivified its British roots, ever mindful of its official motto: “Loyal she began, loyal she remains.”

Do we dare display disloyalty to that design today? Is it time to revisit our faux flag?

It’s not a historical keepsake but a political quickie dreamed up by Robarts in the mid-1960s — just as another false idol, the Gardiner Expressway, was being completed. Should we be stuck with such symbols of short-sightedness for all time?

In Ontario, times change. But it takes time to build up momentum.

The British monarchy is in malaise — out of date and out of place in Canada, but difficult to dislodge. Just as our old Union Jack ensign could be confused for the British flag, so too Canadian postage stamps showing the Queen as our head of state are an anachronism (my airmail letters to British friends look like domestic mail to them).

But when I covered Australia’s ill-fated referendum on ridding itself of the monarchy in 1999, I watched voters quarrel over what would replace the Queen. The lesson is that you first need to marshal public opinion toward a durable consensus.

While many Ontarians clamour for an end to funding of separate schools, public opinion is still deeply split on ending constitutional protection for Catholic education. Until there is a consensus, there is no point launching a battle that will inflame religious passions, divide the province and end in stalemate.

As Ontario becomes less Loyalist and more modernist, demographic shifts will drive democratic change. In time.

How Ontario travelled back in time as Canada moved forward: Cohn | Toronto Star.

ICYMI: Why a flag has New Zealand in a flap

Our flag debate was controversial and divisive at the time. While there is still some nostalgia in some quarters for the red ensign and flying the Union Jack, comment by New Zealand Prime Minister Kay on how it is accepted is correct:

Prime Minister John Key, an avowed monarchist (and a buddy of Prime Minister Stephen Harper), wants a new flag. Last month, he pledged a referendum on the matter if he’s re-elected this fall, which is highly likely.

“Back in 1965, Canada changed its flag from one that, like ours, also had the Union Jack in the corner, and replaced it with the striking symbol of modern Canada that all of us recognize and can identify today,” Mr. Key said last month.

“Fifty years on, I can’t imagine many Canadians would, if asked, choose to go back to the old flag. That flag represented Canada as it was once, rather than as it is now.”

Mr. Key is right about that. Many Canadians will recall the “flag debate” in which former prime minister John Diefenbaker led his Progressive Conservatives in a ferocious and protracted parliamentary battle to preserve the Red Ensign. Mr. Diefenbaker was on the wrong side of history (as he often was, despite today’s Conservative attempts to lionize him). Today, almost no one wants to return to the Red Ensign. Apart from hard-core Quebec secessionists, the red Maple Leaf is liked and admired both in Canada and abroad.

We sometimes had discussions with Minister Kenney’s staff on which flags should be on stage for various events. Their general preference was to have the historic flags as well as the current flag.

Why a flag has New Zealand in a flap – The Globe and Mail.