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Debate over Canadian flag resumes as convoy protests return to Ottawa –



Victor Crapnell remembers the uneasy feeling he had watching the Freedom Convoy protests unfold in his hometown of Ottawa in February. The feeling came as he saw the red and white maple leaf on Canada’s flag standing out against the snowy backdrop.

The Victoria resident says seeing the image of the flag displayed so prominently, on some occasions alongside Confederate and Nazi flags, stirred up emotions he says he never usually associated with the country’s most recognizable symbol.

“It sort of hit home to me that our beautiful flag had been hijacked as their symbol of protest,” Crapnell said. “And I thought, ‘That’s not right.'”

Person with flag.
People wrapped in Canadian flags hold gas canisters, as truckers and supporters continue to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates, in Ottawa on Feb. 11. Freedom Convoy protests are expected to return over Canada Day weekend. (Lars Habgerg/Reuters)

With that in mind, the graphic designer created a sticker this spring with an image of a Canadian flag crushing a tractor trailer and the words “Canada Take Back Your Flag” encircling the image. At his wife’s behest, so as not to cast aspersions on all truckers, he added a misspelled Freedom Convoy logo on the truck.

Crapnell’s project to reclaim what he believes is the rightful meaning of the flag garnered interest across the country. He says he’s shipped more than 1,600 stickers nationwide.

“Our flag has always had a reputation around the world of friendliness and tolerance and acceptance, and it really hurt me to see that damaged,” said Crapnell.

Man with flag.
Victor Crapnell wants the Canadian flag to continue to represent friendliness and tolerance around the world. ‘It sort of hit home to me that our beautiful flag had been hijacked as their symbol of protest,’ he said. ‘And I thought, ‘That’s not right.” (Michael McArthur/CBC)

As Canada Day approaches, some groups related to February’s protests have promised to return to Ottawa, leading some to speak out about protesters with the convoy using the flag as their preferred symbol of protest.

Crapnell and others argue it is a symbol of unity, not one that should represent divisions over COVID-19 vaccines and pandemic policies. 

“Now all of a sudden, it’s been taken over by people who have a very extreme political agenda. They desecrate, in my view, the flag by using it somehow as a false flag,” said Lloyd Axworthy, a former Liberal foreign affairs minister.

“As a result, it diminishes its importance and its sense of meaning for a lot of Canadians.”

But members of the protest convoy who see their actions as a patriotic defence of the freedoms Canada stands for say they have just as much right to brandish the flag as any Canadian.

The debate comes as Ottawa police attempt to prevent another occupation, as MPs get panic buttons to deal with a rising number of threats, and a Quebec judge says he and his colleagues are facing threats after hearing cases related to the convoy protests.

Differing views on flag’s symbolism

Jason Kowalyshyn of Take Action Canada, a group opposed to vaccine mandates and COVID-related restrictions, is travelling from Hamilton, Ont., to be in Ottawa this weekend. He says the flag will be as prominent as it was during previous protests.

“We should all be united under the flag,” he said. “From my perspective, the flag has more meaning now because it represents patriotism and freedom.”

Kowalyshyn said when he’s driving and sees a car with a Canadian flag, he welcomes it.

“I usually wave at the them, and they smile, and they know why I’m waving because they also understand that [the flag] represents our collective rights and freedoms that we’re advocating for,” he said.

For Mohamad Fakih, on the other hand, seeing the flag fluttering on people’s cars brings a moment of doubt and hesitation. 

Crapnell designed these ‘take back your flag’ stickers because he wanted to do something to counter the use of the Canadian flag by convoy protesters. He’s mailed out more than 1,600 so far. (Submitted by Victor Crapnell)

“You always wonder now when you see the flag, ‘Who is the person inside that truck? Who is that person inside that car?'” said Fakih, a Lebanese immigrant to Canada and CEO of Paramount Fine Foods.

“Is it a real Canadian patriot or someone who actually have different set of mind or ideas or someone who is ready to occupy our capital?”

Inside Fakih’s office, a large Maple Leaf hangs from a pole beside his desk. He says it represents an important symbol of inclusion, especially for people who came to Canada from other countries seeking better lives. He says he feels the flag, and its association with the protesters, sends the wrong message.

“We need to send a message that the flag will always remain the symbol of freedom, the symbol of diversity and inclusion of an open, great country that welcome people like me and not only welcome them, celebrate them,” Fakih said.

He’s encouraging Canadians to buy and display flags to reclaim what he sees as the true spirit of the symbol. He put a flag on his own car and posted an image of it as a call to action on social media.

‘The flag has always been political’

The Canadian flag has been a source of controversy long before the Freedom Convoy started using it. It’s also a painful symbol for many Indigenous people.

“The flag cannot be divorced from the colonization, the violence, the genocide, that Indigenous peoples have experienced,” says Niigaan Sinclair, who is Anishinaabe and a professor of native studies at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. 

“Not only does the flag represent maple syrupy sweetness for many Canadians, but for Indigenous peoples, the flag represents a genocide that is still ongoing.”

He says Canadians started to understand that last year when flags were lowered to honour children who died while attending residential schools. 

Man smiling.
Flag expert Forrest Pass with Library and Archives Canada say different groups have often used the flag and the maple leaf as a symbol to add legitimacy to their movements. Controversy over different interpretations of the flag’s meaning is not new, he said. (Mathieu Theriault/CBC)

Forrest Pass, an expert in the study of flags, known as a vexillologist, and curator with Library and Archives Canada, said debate was fierce before the Maple Leaf was adopted in 1965. 

It pitted Conservatives, who wanted to maintain a red ensign, against the Liberals and New Democrats, who wanted to adopt the Maple Leaf.

From the 1995 referendum to the flag flap of 1998 — when Bloc Québécois MPs criticized the number of Canadian flags at the Olympics — the Maple Leaf’s meaning has always been evolving, he says. 

“The flag has always been political, and this is something Canadians need to remember as we talk about the more controversial uses of the flag today,” Pass said.

While the Ottawa protests involved a number of different groups, many with different agendas, Pass says mainstream political symbols such as the flag can often be used to legitimize extreme beliefs.

WATCH | Here’s how Ottawa is preparing for potential Canada Day protests:

Ottawa prepares for protests to coincide with Canada Day

3 days ago

Duration 1:59

Ottawa’s mayor and police say they are prepared for any planned protests around Canada Day celebrations, but business owners and residents say they are bracing themselves after February’s disruption.

He says there may have also been a practical purpose behind adopting the flag: as a protective shield.

“I think that they were bargaining on the idea that being arrested while flying a Canadian flag would look bad before rolling TV cameras,” Pass said.

He says the kind of flag-waving seen at protests in Canada today is heavily influenced by the U.S., which has a long history of using the flag as a patriotic symbol.

“It looks very much like an American patriotic display … and that’s a fairly recent development in Canada,” Pass said.

Mohamad Fakih says he recognizes that there are a lot of different groups within the protests but says he hopes they won’t overtake Canada Day celebrations.

“Diversity and inclusion is part of our Canadian dream and democracy,” he said. “If you’re not happy with the prime minister, if you’re not happy with politics, then vote. Go through the democratic process.”

In Victoria, Victor Crapnell hopes that the Canadian flag will be on full display across the country this weekend.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the positive flags outweigh the negative ones,” he said.

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Prime Minister travelling to Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula today



Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is resuming his summer politicking tour today with a trip to Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula.

Trudeau is there to continue the summer meet and greets he started in July in other parts of Canada.

His planned events include visits to a farm, wind farm and a train retrofitting plant in New Richmond.

Trudeau’s last stop in the region came when he was in full pre-campaign mode just one month before he called a federal election.

This visit comes as the provincial government is set to go into an election where the future of French is sure to play a big role.

On Wednesday, new census data showed Gaspé to be the only region in the province where the share of people claiming French as their first language grew in the last five years.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 18, 2022.


The Canadian Press

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80 years after Dieppe, postcards share stories of soldiers who died in deadly raid



Paris Eakins was 26 years old when he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in November 1940 during the Second World War.

He was born in Minnedosa, Man., where he lived until he attended the University of Manitoba, graduating with a bachelor of arts degree. Eakins worked at his town’s newspaper and went on to join the sports department at the Winnipeg Free Press.

After he enlisted, Eakins worked his way to become a pilot officer in a fighter squadron based in England in 1941. The next year, he was killed in northern France during the disastrous Dieppe Raid. He was 27.

Eakins’ story is featured in a Canadian postcard campaign ahead of the 80th anniversary of the raid on Friday.

The Juno Beach Centre Association has sent 400 unique postcards to addresses across the country that share the name and fate of a serviceman whose records show once lived in those places.

“(We) encourage people to take a moment to consider the anniversary, to consider what happened to this individual who lived in their home or very nearby to them, 80 or more years ago,” said Alex Fitzgerald-Black, the association’s director.

The Dieppe Raid, known as Operation Jubilee, on Aug. 19, 1942, was the Canadian Army’s first major combat against Nazi Germany.

Canadian and British troops landed on beaches near the German-occupied French port with a mission to capture the town, destroy the port facilities and return to England with information that could give them an advantage.

Instead, the raid backfired and Operation Jubilee became Canada’s bloodiest day of the Second World War.

“It was the Canadian Army’s baptism of fire against Nazi Germany during the war. Unfortunately, it was a deadly failure,” said Fitzgerald-Black.

About 5,000 Canadian soldiers took part in the raid. In less than 10 hours of fighting, more than 800 died, with about 100 more later succumbing to their injuries. About another 2,000 became prisoners of war.

Preparations for the postcard campaign began at the end of last year. Employees and volunteers at the association went through the service files of those who were killed to see if they could link their old home addresses to a current one.

They were able to develop a list of addresses for half of those who died. The list skews toward addresses in urban settings because those who were from rural areas couldn’t be reproduced, said Fitzgerald-Black. Many went to cities in southern Ontario, as well as Montreal and Winnipeg.

The association also produced a temporary exhibition honouring the anniversary in Normandy, France.

A delegation of federal ministers, veterans, representatives of veterans and Indigenous organizations, and members of the Canadian Armed Forces travelled to France this week to take part in events marking the anniversary.

Three of the veterans participating served in the Second World War, including a survivor of the raid.

“It’s vitally important that we continue to recognize and honour the extraordinary service and sacrifice witnessed 80 years ago on the beaches of Dieppe,” Lawrence MacAulay, minister of veterans affairs, said in a release.

“As the living memory of this seminal moment fades, we as Canadians must ensure that the legacy of those who served Canada is never forgotten.”

Stories like Eakins’ have made an impression on Fitzgerald-Black.

He hopes the postcard project will help Canadians remember the people who died serving their country and those who survived.

“They’re not going to be around much longer to share these stories — the stories of their comrades who were killed during the raid,” he said.

“And so we hope that Canadians will continue to take up the torch to do this into the future.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 18, 2022.


Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press

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Census data shows linguistic diversity on the rise in Canada – Saanich News



A growing number of new immigrants to Canada are bringing with them increasingly diverse languages, setting a record for the number of Canadians whose mother tongue is neither English nor French, new 2021 census data reveals.

One in four people in Canada have a mother tongue other than English or French, and about 12 per cent of people predominantly speak a non-official language at home as of last year.

Proficiency in those languages tends to fade after a generation or two, however, Statistics Canada’s deputy head of the Centre for Demography said Wednesday.

“From 2016 to 2021, the number of Canadians who predominantly speak languages other than English and French at home grew significantly,” said Éric Caron-Malenfant at a media briefing.

The trend is mainly driven by immigration, and continued even during the pandemic when immigration slowed considerably due to COVID-19 health restrictions and related backlogs, Caron-Malenfant said.

The average age of new immigrants is typically between 25 and 35, he said.

“After that, when you have children in Canada, often more and more English and French will be spoken at home,” he said.

British Columbia speech-language pathologist June Cheung noticed that phenomenon play out in her own Cantonese-speaking family and community when she was growing up in Edmonton.

“My parents were the ones who originally immigrated here from Hong Kong whereas my siblings and I, we were all born here,” Cheung said in an interview.

“My parents would speak to my older brothers and myself in Chinese but often we would reply in English.”

The generational language shift inspired her masters thesis, which further showed how “heritage” language proficiency fades with each generation.

“By the time the second generation has kids, it’s very unlikely that they’ll choose to use a heritage language,” she said.

The trend was also true for French-speaking families outside of Quebec in most provinces, the census data shows.

The proportion of Canadians living outside Quebec whose first official language spoken is French was down to 3.3 per cent in 2021 from 3.6 per cent in 2016.

Statistics Canada attributes the decline to the fact that people whose first official language is French tend to be older, and haven’t consistently passed the language on to the next generation. Sometimes other languages can take over inside the home.

Cheung, who says she’s reinvested in her Cantonese-speaking skills, says fading language proficiency can create intergenerational divides.

“I can ask you where the bathroom is, versus being able to talk about your hopes and fears, your dreams,” she said. “It’s a lot harder to have those conversations sometimes if there is that language barrier.”

Mandarin and Punjabi are the most common non-official languages, with more than a million people predominantly speaking one of the two languages.

Statistics Canada noted a large increase in the growth of the number of Canadians who predominantly speak South Asian languages such as Punjabi, Gujarati, Hindi or Malayalam since the last census in 2016, a rise which was fuelled by immigration.

The growth rate of the population speaking South Asian languages was at least eight times greater than that of the overall Canadian population during the same period.

The massive increase in the growth of South Asian languages closely aligns with immigration trends from those countries.

At the same time, European languages like Italian, Polish and Greek are fading in Canada.

“This decline is primarily linked to the speakers of these languages aging, a significant proportion of whom emigrated to Canada before 1980,” Caron-Malenfant said.

Relatively few recent immigrants from those countries have recently landed in Canada, he said.

Regardless of their mother tongue, most people in Canada access services in one of the two official languages.

English and French are still by far the most common languages spoken in Canada and 90 per cent of Canadians speak at least one of the official languages.

—Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

RELATED: Proportion of French speakers declines nearly everywhere in Canada, including Quebec

RELATED: More Canadians report strong attachment to their language than to Canada: poll


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