Thursday, January 06, 2005

Maple Leaf Rag 

Symbolic rejection of the Canadian flag: as the CP reports, it isn't just for Quebecois anymore:
Premier Danny Williams isn't the first politician to use the Canadian flag as a political tool, but he is unusual because most flag flaps have involved Quebeckers.

The decision by the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador to haul down the flag from provincial buildings to protest Ottawa's handling of the province's resource claims adds a new tactic to federal-provincial squabbling while underlining the flag's potent symbolic value, analysts say.

The flag, born in political controversy 40 years ago, has most often been waved, burned or complained about in Quebec terms.

Having Newfoundland lower the flag has a different impact, says Richard Simeon, a political scientist at the University of Toronto.

"People are saying, 'We kind of expect that from Quebec, but we don't expect that from English Canada'."

During the constitutional wars of the late 1980s and early 1990s, Quebec flags were trampled on publicly in the streets of Ontario cities. The Maple Leaf was occasionally burned in Quebec. It was dragged behind a car through downtown Montreal at least once...

"What's more interesting about this case is that it's happening at a time of heightened Canadian pride and sort of the rah-rah nationalism or patriotism," said Simeon. "A lot of people see it as a slap in the face, even in Newfoundland and Labrador.

"Over the last few decades we've invested a lot in the flag as a national unity thing, as a way to promote a distinct identify from the U.S., so taking it down is seen as a sign of disrespect."

Richard Nimijean, a political scientist from Carleton University in Ottawa, said flags - whether federal or provincial - have become potent symbols in the last decade or so, giving them new value as rallying points.
And since it just wouldn't be a story without some reference to stereotypes about Canadians:
Gerald Baier, a political scientist at the University of British Columbia, said the context is important, because for Newfoundland, the resource issue is the province's big fight.

He also points out that the flags were lowered, not torn down.

"There's no stomping of Canadian flags here . . . there hasn't been any burning or anything like that," he said. "That sort of stuff can really get people upset."
[Hat tip to Alex]

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