Worthwhile Canadian Initiative


“The Great Canadian Flag Debate”  (From the CBC archives but not posted by the CBC, and so viewable by non-Canadians.)

Years ago The New Republic initiated a “most boring headline” competition inspired by a column with the title, “Worthwhile Canadian Initiative.”  It’s still funny, except when it’s not, like when the issue is sound banking regulation and the delivery of high quality universal health care.  See, for example, Fareed Zakaria’s article in Newsweek two years ago, “Worthwhile Canadian Initiative,” where he really means it.

On this date in 1965, after long and often rancorous debate, Parliament approved the design for what is now the Canadian flag.  As often happens here, we were united in our divisions and eventually came through with a unanimous choice, but only by way of fiercely partisan in-committee flanking maneuvers.  In other words, we tricked ourselves into it.  For spite.  This is what Frye otherwise calls our genius for compromise.

From “National Consciousness in Canadian Culture”:

And today, when not only Quebec but Western and Eastern Canada have strong separatist sentiments, separatism is neutralized by a feeling, affecting separatists and federalists alike, that the issue is not really important enough to go beyond the stage of symbolism.  Even symbolism has had a curiously muted life in Canada.  Older cultural nationalists, for example, warned us against the dangers of “flag-waving,” disregarding the fact that Canada at the time had no flag to wave.  (CW 12, 499)

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