Ray Hudson
Ray Hudson
Ray Hudson

Within a week or so we’ll be remembering those who went to war to protect the lifestyle we enjoy today. These heroes, the injured and the fallen, followed the flag of their country into battle. The Canadian flag, is something that can stir emotion in us all. Who wasn’t proud as our athletes carried the red and white Maple Leaf into the Olympics? Who hasn’t travelled abroad with a Canada flag prominently displayed on jacket or backpack?

So I thought I’d offer a little information about that rectangle and how it should be treated, displayed and even disposed of.

First the word flag, or flagge in middle English meaning to droop (which flags do when the wind fails). From Wiki: It shows up in all modern Germanic languages (German Flagge, Dutch vlag, Danish flag, Swedish flagg, etc.) but apparently first recorded in English, of unknown origin, but likely connected to flag or else an independent imitative formation “expressing the notion of something flapping in the wind and without that, hanging loosely or limply; droop.

Flags and their predecessors were popular in the military because it identified your army. The Roman Legions had Standards (I don’t mean of behavior either), which were carried into battle.

During the High Middle Ages flags were used in battle, allowing for easier identification of a knight as well as the image painted on his shield. I suppose it made it easier to identify who to follow or who to target depending on your point of view.

In the early 17th century, flags became the license plates of sailing ships as it was made a legal requirement for ships to display their national flag. Before radio, coded flags became the method of ship to ship communications. Ultimately a system of international flag signals was developed. National flags began to show up in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Until February 15, 1965 Canada used an adapted British Naval standard called the red ensign. Believe it or not, it was a legal Canadian flag on ships only, and although widely used as the flag of Canada it had no legal standing when used on land. The actual flag of Canada was the Union Jack or the “Royal Union” flag.

By 1965, after a most entertaining competition, a new red and white Maple Leaf flag was unveiled and became our flag and national symbol. There was no longer any danger of the Banff beaver, the Canada goose, or the Manitoba moose being portrayed on the flag.

Now for some Fast Flag Facts:

  • When a flag becomes worn, faded or ripped, it should no longer be used. Rather it should be disposed of in the most respectful way. Trouble is no one defined what “respectful way” meant. Seems that the most respectful way was to burn it, then bury the ashes. Sounds like the draft resistant protests of the 60’s had it right all along.
  • The boy scouts burn the most US flags in the World, as it is actually the most respected way of disposing of a Flag. Seems that they wear them out very quickly.
  • In Denmark, it is illegal to burn foreign flags, but not illegal to burn the Danish flag. They’re so polite to strangers!
  • Denmark’s flag is the oldest flag currently in use, designed in 1219 and unchanged since. Who knew?
  • The flags of Australia and New Zealand are so similar, the Prime Minister of Australia, on a state visit to Canada in 1984, was greeted with the flag of New Zealand. Struth!

So as November slides in with a weather warning, stoke up the fireplace, proudly put on your toques and mittens, raise a glass to our flag, set your clock back Saturday night and don’t get up until May. See ya, eh?