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Globe editorial

Red Ensign

From Saturday's Globe and Mail

Of course the Canadian Red Ensign should fly at the April 9 commemorations of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, alongside the Royal Standard of Canada, the Maple Leaf, the Union Jack and the French tricouleur. And of course the Red Ensign should fly in perpetuity at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. The Maple Leaf is not the battle flag of a Canadian revolution. When Canada adopted the 1965 flag, Canadians did not abrogate their history.

The Red Ensign, along with the Union Jack, was the flag Canadians fought under during the First World War, and indeed the Second World War, and it deserves a place of continuing honour in this country and on its historic battlefields. To do otherwise would serve only, as the Dominion Institute's Rudyard Griffiths aptly put it, to "airbrush our history." The 1965 flag is in a sense a product of the heroic Battle of Vimy Ridge in 1917, since the sacrifices of Canadian soldiers during the Great War were integral to the full achievement of Canadian independence, codified in the Statute of Westminster, 1931.

The Red Ensign is a fascinating symbol of the constitutional evolution of Canada. In its earliest form, the shield in the fly of the unofficial ensign represented the four founding provinces. But others were added with each new province (some red ensigns also included the territorial shields). During the First World War, the ensign included nine provincial shields. Only in 1924 was a federal Red Ensign developed bearing the shield of the Royal Arms of Canada. That flag was altered again in 1957, when the three green maple leaves were changed to red by the government of John Diefenbaker. That is the source of the red maple leaf on the 1965 flag.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper deserves praise for putting an end to the silly bureaucratic objections to flying the Canadian Red Ensign at the Vimy Memorial, and Jason Kenney, Secretary of State for Canadian Identity, for making the change permanent. When the Queen of Canada and her Prime Minister meet on April 9for commemorations of the battle's 90th anniversary, it is only right that the Red Ensign fly again over that hallowed ground.

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