The Importance of Flags

It’s the day after Canadian Thanksgiving. The river and sky in Prescott are as grey as can be, and it’s raining. What I’m really missing this morning, though, is the sight of the Union Jack flying high over Fort Wellington. The Fort’s Victoria Day to Thanksgiving season has come to an end once more, like so many historic sites in Ontario.

Fort Wellington

During the summer, the Union Jack is a daily sight in Prescott raised by the Fort’s heritage interpreters at the appointed time in the morning and lowered at the end of the day. Having worked in a number of heritage schoolhouses in the Greater Toronto Area, I’m used to seeing the three-crossed Royal Union flag adopted in 1801, after the incorporation of Ireland into the Union. For earlier sites like Fort Louisbourg, however, the flag of choice is the first Royal Union flag with just two crosses: the red, central cross of St. George and the white diagonal cross of St. Andrew.

Fort Wellington remains in its original condition with most if its 1830s buildings, the only earthen redoubt-style fort constructed in Ontario during the 19th century. It was used continually by the British and Canadian armies until the 1920s when it became one of Canada’s early national historic sites.

c. 1900_Fort Wellington_Postcard

As I looked for images of Fort Wellington or flags of the past in Prescott on, I came across an intriguing postcard. The bulldog is intriguing, and helps date this postcard. The observance it portrays is probably taking place during the Boer War (1899-1902).

1900_Maud Earl_Dimboola

In 1900, at the height of the Boer War, British artist Maud Earl issued prints of her patriotic portrait of Dimboola, the champion bulldog of 1896, set against a backdrop of a Union Flag and the white cliffs of Dover.

1941_Art Hider_Dimboola

Entitled What We Have, We’ll Hold, Earl’s image was later widely used in World War I and returned to popularity in 1941 thanks to an update by Canadian commercial artist Art Hider.

Every day, at bases around the world, uniformed personnel witness the raising and lowering of their nation’s flag, standing in silence, and saluting. For those who serve, the day can’t start until this moment, when the men and women who’ve come before are recognized.

Somehow, I missed hearing the news about Bill 101, An Act to Proclaim Ontario Flag Day. First introduced on May 13, 2015 by Etobicoke Centre MPP Yvan Baker, the legislation proclaims May 21st as Ontario Flag Day. The Bill’s introduction came just one week prior to the 50th anniversary of the first raising in 1965 of Ontario’s provincial flag. Queen’s Park tells us: “With the passage of The Ontario Flag Day Act, 2015, students across Ontario will be able to officially mark May 21st in their calendars each year to celebrate Ontario Flag Day and to pay tribute to the citizens who continue to make Ontario one of the best places in the world.”

Each year, approximately 250 flags fly on the Peace Tower and 200 on both the East and West Blocks. Upon being removed, flags are dried, properly folded, and stored for distribution. According to Public Works, there is a 48-year waiting list for the Peace Tower flags, while those interested in obtaining one from the East or West Blocks face a shorter wait of just 34 years.


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