The history of the Canadian flag is a success story. Indeed, what do we ask of a flag if it isn't that it embody the country, unite its citizens and trigger its recognition by the other peoples of the Earth?
Few symbols are as identified with a country as the maple leaf has been with Canada for the last 50 years. Like so many countries, we could have picked a flag with horizontal or vertical stripes. But then, our flag would have lacked originality and could have mistaken for another (particularly by colour-blind people like me!).
We could have picked a religious or ideological sign -- a cross, a star -- as many countries have done. Neither would that have embodied the deep Canadian originality.
Rare are the national flags that include a leaf or a tree like the Lebanese cedar or the Canadian maple leaf. Such a flag stands out right away from the others. The many Canadian youth (and the not-so-young) who travel with a maple leaf prominently displayed on their backpack are well aware of that.
The maple leaf is recognized and liked around the world. It serves well the country that, when people all over the world are asked where they would most like to live if they had to leave their birth nation, is ranked in the top.
However, adopting a tree leaf as a symbol involves a huge responsibility -- to be a lively country, one that evolves, flourishes and grows. A country as strong as it is welcoming, one that nurtures, protects and reassures, with a life force that nourishes all its inhabitants. A country that always seeks harmony between the beauty of nature and the greatness of civilization. A country of diverse and far-reaching roots and branches but with a common trunk, straight as a maple tree.
That, and much more, is what this maple leaf symbolizes, waving in the breeze for the last 50 years. Let us be proud of it! And let us rise up to it!
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