The question of why the development and subsequent adoption of the Maple Leaf on the Canadian flag has given the people of Canada a sense of belonging is, on the face of it, interesting and straight forward. However, there is arguably more to it than simply owning their own flag. The deep seated sense of belonging the Canadians have developed may be more to do with their sense of pride in their almost unique tolerance for different cultures, nationalities and religions.
Without doubt, the Maple Leaf flag is recognized around the world and has become synonymous since its initiation on February 15th, 1965, with Canada and the Canadian people. Some of the reasons are somewhat straightforward, and include the following justifications. First of all, the Maple Leaf is very characteristic and is very easy to recognise due to the dominant red maple leaf placed in the centre of the flag, it is, to all intents and purposes, unique. It is also a very strong symbol that is unquestionably vindicated because of the rural, intensely wooded landscape and history of the indigenous people of Canada. The maple tree also has a very long monetary history with Canadians because of the trees sap, which is a natural syrup that has been and is sold worldwide as an unprocessed sweetener, and so brings a large amount of income into the country.
Alistair Fraser (1998) substantiates this idea by stating, “The sole function of any flag is to send a message. A national flag sends the message of nationality. In doing so, it forms the nation’s premier graphic symbol, second in importance only to the nation’s premier linguistic symbol: its name”. Fraser goes on to say that, “The National Flag has now became fused with the Canadian identity so comfortably that it is now hard to imagine the nation without it”. Fraser backs-up his opinion by quoting Arthur Lower (1998) a Canadian historian, who said, ‘Since the adoption of the new flag, something very interesting has happened to the Canadian psyche … the country is … coming to see itself as an entity…. Each time … the average citizen looks at the new flag, he unconsciously says to himself “That’s me!”’. So the Canadian people regard the Maple Leaf as a natural representation of who they are and what they stand for in the historical sense. There is however, another possible reason as to why the Canadian people as a whole have developed a sense of belonging, and that is Canadian pride in their non judgemental nature and their naturally inclusive federalistic psyche. Wendy Kyrle-Pope (2008) said, “The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states the rights and freedoms apply to everyone in Canada, irrespective of citizenship or legal status”. This informative opinion leads one to consider that there is more to the Canadian sense of belonging than possessing a flag that Canadians can call their own. The inclusivity that federalism brings with it appears to be a key component as its adoptive policy allows all nationalities and cultures to co-exist in peace, with literally the same rights. The following two quotes are taken from an article by Charles Foran (2017) and are a perfect example to further sustain this argument, Foran quoted Marshall McLuhan (1963), who said, “Once Canada moved away from privileging denizens of the former empire to practising multiculturalism, it could become a place where ‘many faiths, histories and visions’ would co-exist”. John Ralston Saul (2016) also said “Space for multiple identities and multiple loyalties is essential for an idea of belonging, which is comfortable with contradictions”. Canada has of course the geographical space for multiple nationalities from a multitude of cultures to thrive and develop in, and the indigenous peoples of Canada seem only to keen to welcome all races and all cultures and allow them to integrate as a permanent part of their country.
Charles Foran’s article possibly conveys the idea that the source of the Canadians sense of belonging does not lie solely in the need for a sense of national identity based on their indigenous histories. Their sense of belonging and their pride in the maple flag is also fuelled by their combined pride in their unique capacity to embrace multiculturalism, and their acceptance of other cultures and nationalities into Canadian society. Canada’s landscape is awash with natural beauty and the Maple tree has long been associated with Canada, so it is no surprise that the Maple leaf was adopted to symbolise the country. This suggests the majority of Canadians liken their historical roots to those of the Maple tree roots, and furthermore, the people of Canada appear more than willing to share the vastness of their country with people who are prepared and want to adopt Canada as their permanent home. So, to further strengthen this idea of Canadians welcoming different nationalities and different cultures into their country to become ‘Canadians’, it is perhaps pertinent to take into consideration the national poll conducted by Leger in 2015 concerning Canadian pride in the Maple Leaf flag. The poll found that “Three in four Canadians are proud to fly the maple leaf and nearly eight in ten believe Canada is the best country in the world”. Green (2015) This is very telling, but taking into consideration the evidence in this essay, the results should probably take into consideration that some of those who were asked were quite possibly not indigenous to Canada, but nevertheless, their opinions were counted as Canadians.
To conclude, the flag has appeared to instil an invigorated sense of national identity in a country that prides itself in its inclusive culture that embraces the participation of all peoples who live in Canada, not just those who are indigenous to Canada.
- Daly, B. (2015). Most Canadians Proud To Fly Flag Think Canada Is Worlds Best Country. Toronto Sun. http://www.torontosun.com
- Foran, C. (2017). The Canada Experiment: Is this the world’s first ‘postnational’ country? The Guardian. www.theguardian,com
- Fraser, A, B. (1998). A Canadian Flag For Canada. http://fraser.cc/flagscan/nation/canflag.html. Chapter. 4. Retrieved from: www.flagscan.com
- Kyrle-Pope, W. (2008). Retrieved from: www.federalunion.org.uk. retrieved from: www.liberator.org.uk