At 50, Canada’s flag flies over quite a different nation

What a difference 50 years makes.

Last week, the day after Valentine’s in fact, marked the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption by Parliament of what some of us of a certain age still refer to as “the new Canadian flag.”

It’s no longer that new, or course, and it’s interesting to consider what Canadians and our national government has as a priority today in comparison to a half century ago.

The idea of a new flag was, in and of itself, a matter of national concern with Progressive Conservative leader John Diefenbaker and most of his caucus only reluctantly supporting Liberal Prime Minister Lester B. (Mike) Pearson’s push for a new flag and voting in favour of the one we know and love today.

In the year prior to the February 15, 1965 vote on the new flag, however, the “flag debate” raged back and forth between Liberal and PC opponents with the Tories eventually coming around to support Mr. Pearson’s vision.

What simpler times those were. Canada had Peacekeeping troops in Cypress to help keep the Greek and Turkish residents and troops from one another’s throats, were supervising a ceasefire on the India-Pakistan border and sent observers to the Dominican Republic, also to observe a ceasefire.

The Cold War was going full tilt but the Cuban missile crisis, the event that came closest to a full-scale nuclear war, was already three years behind.

Those were simpler times. Not that simple, for sure, but more straightforward.

Today our red maple leaf Canadian flag flies over a government in Ottawa that has, within the last twelve months, proposed a “Fair Elections Act” which, in its initial draft, would have made voting much more difficult, not easier, for many Canadians and is currently in the process of passing in one form or another a much tougher Anti Terrorism Act.

Canadian forces are currently in Iraq as part of the international effort to contain and thwart the forces of the Islamic State in a time-limited exercise that promises to be extended and also expanded into Syria.

Computer crime, seemingly more misogyny than ever, a Canadian economy uncomfortably linked to the fortunes of our domestic petroleum industry also mark our current times in quite stark contrast to 1965 where the only screens were on (mostly) black and white televisions, women and girls were treated more respectfully by boys and men and Canada’s economy was skewed more to manufacturing, hard rock mining, agriculture and forestry.

The Canadian dollar, in absolute terms, however, compares almost exactly this week to its US counterpart at the same time in 1965: 0.79.

The 50-year-old flag flies over quite a different nation than did its red ensign predecessor.