Members of Parliament celebrate with the new flag after the Liberals invoked closure to end the flag debate in the House of Commons.  Photo by Duncan Cameron/Library and Archives Canada

The Register Archives: A message of thanks for our new flag

  • December 7, 2018

In the winter of 1964, Parliament was a hotbed of debate. With Canada’s 100th birthday just two-and-a-half years away, politicians were busily trying to come to some sort of agreement on a new national flag to replace the Red Ensign. The Great Canadian Flag Debate officially began in June 1964 and after six months of often bitter argument, it finally ended on Dec. 15, 1964 as the Liberals invoked closure, much to the chagrin of Conservative leader John Diefenbaker. Two months later, the new flag flew for the first time, prompting this letter to The Catholic Register editor from an unnamed seminarian at Toronto’s St. Augustine’s Seminary.

We have witnessed a most unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience here at the St. Augustine’s Seminary: the blessing of our new Canadian flag.

The ceremony, under the direction of our vice-rector, Fr. T.H. Fournier, was something that will be remembered by all of us for many years. It was a combination Bible Vigil, blessing of our new Canadian flag and the singing of our national songs “O Canada” and “God Save the Queen.” And as a new Canadian to witness such an historical event, is something truly great, and for this say: “Thank You, Canada.”

As I knelt (being one of 200 seminarians), I recalled amid horror my boyhood experience of such an occasion. It was a time when we, too, had a “flag-raising ceremony.” But this flag did not stand for freedom, as this one does, but stood for an “Iron Hand of Communism.”

I recalled how grief-stricken my people were, people who were happy and gay; they realized that this was the beginning of their “everlasting suffering” under the Communist yoke. And as a result, these people refused to laugh, talk and even to live. But you see I was too young to see this tyranny, but now I do, and I say: “Thank You, Canada.”

When I look at our new flag proudly adorning our Seminary Chapel, my memories fly back to my little white village church where I was baptized and where I received my First Holy Communion. But suddenly, I am terribly saddened: I see that the doors are tightly bolted because the Communists have taken away our priest. I see, too, many of my friends who once also were seminarians as I am today, but this “iron hand” has crushed the very existence of their seminary life. But you made it possible for me, and I say: “Thank You, Canada.”

It makes me terribly sad to see how ungrateful some people are towards you — never having anything good to say. 

But if these people would only see my people, once cheerful and gay, and now under the Communist oppression, surely they would begin to appreciate you. 

But it is my sincere hope that now we will begin to appreciate you a little more under our new symbol; it is my hope, too, that we begin not only to appreciate you, but to start acting out our belief before it is too late, as it is for my people. It is my wish that we all proclaim, first of all, thanks to Almighty God for being so generously blessed, and then to you, O Canada.


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