Whether or not you have been in Surrey, British Columbia, or Coutts, Alberta, or Windsor, Ontario — or, particularly, in the event you have been in Ottawa — you noticed a sea of red-and-white Canadian flags rippling within the winter wind throughout this 12 months’s protests in opposition to the federal authorities and pandemic mandates, identified to some because the “Freedom Convoy.”
Within the months since, the sight of Canadian flags mounted on vehicles and pickup vans or flying exterior properties has some doing double takes: Is that flag an emblem of protest or of unity?
Canada adopted its maple leaf flag in 1965, the ultimate chapter in a protracted and very contentious debate over whether or not to desert the Canadian Pink Ensign, the previous flag with a Union Jack within the prime left nook and a coat of arms on the underside proper.
Far-right teams — together with the Proud Boys, which was co-founded by a Canadian, Gavin McInnes — have latched onto the Pink Ensign in veneration of white settler historical past. In 2017, 5 members of the Canadian Armed Forces have been amongst a bunch of Proud Boys who carried the Pink Ensign flag whereas confronting Indigenous protesters in Halifax on Canada Day.
However neither the previous Pink Ensign flag nor the present maple leaf one has ever turned a lot of the nation into flag fanatics. By and huge, Canadians simply aren’t that into it.
“There are nonetheless some individuals who ostentatiously fly the pre-1965 flag, an indication of disapproval however, it’s sort of arcane,” mentioned Robert Bothwell, a professor emeritus of Canadian historical past on the College of Toronto. “It’s a must to be fairly refined to know what” it’s, he mentioned, including “so I don’t see that turning into a preferred motion.”
Flags have been traditionally used to paint or give expression to Canada’s political actions and sentiments, Mr. Bothwell mentioned. Significantly in Quebec, flags got here to indicate whether or not the individual waving them was a separatist, nationalist or federalist.
“Canadians are proud in regards to the flag, however the query, not solely with the ‘Freedom Convoy,’ is what does it symbolize?” mentioned Richard Nimijean, a historian and teacher at Carleton College in Ottawa.
“It’s essential to keep in mind that we all the time renegotiate these symbols and what they imply,” he added.
The organizers of the convoy have mentioned the flags that demonstrators carried represented the rallying cry of their protest, “Freedom!” However some Canadians mentioned that after the protests, they’d really feel cautious about utilizing the flag to convey nationwide pleasure even on Canada Day.
“I shouldn’t should really feel awkward, and that’s what bothers me most,” mentioned Brian Lewis, who’s operating for a Metropolis Council seat in Hamilton, Ontario, a metropolis west of Toronto. “I’m happy with my nation and what it stands for,” he added. However, Mr. Lewis mentioned, in February, he began “to get appears to be like” for flying a Canadian flag on his automobile.
“I’m sitting in a parking zone of a grocery retailer proper now and I’m a little bit bit upset,” by the dearth of flag shows, he mentioned throughout an interview on Thursday. “However I perceive why, completely, and it’s unhappy.”
Claudia Laroye, a Vancouver-based journey author, mentioned driving previous one of many convoys in British Columbia throughout the winter gave her the impression that the flag had been “co-opted.” She mentioned the convoy left “these of us who didn’t agree with that messaging questioning how we may fly it and never look like supportive.”
“We’ll show it this 12 months to contradict that messaging, in our personal small method,” Ms. Laroye mentioned in an e-mail.
Lots of the symbols interspersed between Canadian flags on the protests final winter represented American politics: flags and posters for Donald Trump, Gadsden flags bearing the phrase “Don’t Tread on Me,” posters of the U.S. Invoice of Rights and Accomplice flags.
The organizers disavowed these symbols, however the pictures raised some eyebrows. “I didn’t know you might secede from a rustic you weren’t part of,” Stephen Colbert joked in a February section of his late-night present, referring to the Accomplice flag sightings.
Whereas these imported symbols have little historic relevance to Canada, they’ve come to broadly symbolize values related to the far proper, showing prominently throughout the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riot.
The preponderance of flags on Jan. 6 was “sinister,” mentioned Mr. Bothwell. He added, “It actually was meant to suggest that they’re the actual Individuals and the folks contained in the Capitol usually are not, and I believe that has precisely the identical which means because the flags” of those that protested on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.
[Read: Was Canada Trucker Protest a Blip, or the Start of Something Bigger?]
The “Freedom Convoy” started in January with loosely organized teams of truck drivers making their method from different elements of Canada towards Ottawa to oppose vaccination mandates on the U.S. border.
However the protests quickly attracted different Canadians expressing common antigovernment sentiment in mild of pandemic restrictions, immobilizing downtown Ottawa and several other border crossings for weeks and prompting questions on legislation enforcement officers’ pleasant response.
Early on, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dismissed the protesters as a “small fringe minority” and rebuked some for desecrating public monuments and wielding Nazi symbols.
The Ottawa police ramped up safety this week for Friday’s celebrations, boosting parking patrol and towing greater than 70 autos between Wednesday and Friday. Fences have been erected round buildings, together with the Supreme Courtroom, and police made no less than 5 arrests within the lead-up to festivities.
Whereas folks concerned in February’s motion promised to resume their protest on Canada Day, they have been vastly outnumbered by law enforcement officials and households making their option to the primary official celebrations since 2019. Late Friday afternoon, nonetheless, one group a few block lengthy paraded across the perimeter of the capital’s downtown waving flags and shouting “freedom” earlier than gathering on the Nationwide Warfare Memorial to sing “O Canada.”
The tense buildup to this 12 months’s celebrations took on a unique tenor from final July, when many individuals flew their Canadian flags at half-staff and known as for the cancellation of vacation plans after a whole bunch of unmarked graves have been found on the websites of former residential colleges for Indigenous youngsters.
Nazem Kadri, a hockey participant from London, Ontario, scored one of many defining objectives of the Stanley Cup playoffs, successful his first championship after 13 seasons within the N.H.L.
A.O. Scott, The Occasions’s chief movie critic, reviewed a brand new documentary known as “Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, a Journey, a Track,” about Montreal’s most well-known crooner.
Timothy Caulfield, a Canada analysis chair in well being legislation on the College of Alberta who research misinformation, mentioned analysis has proven that highly effective private anecdotes can undermine folks’s capability to suppose scientifically. It’s a tactic used on social media platforms like TikTok, however these creators are pushing again on well being myths.
In Op-Docs, The Occasions’s award-winning sequence of quick documentaries, the photographer Kitra Cahana brings an intimate view “on what it means to be alive in a state of profound isolation.” The sequence is narrated by her father, Rabbi Ronnie Cahana, who resides in a long-term care facility in Montreal.
In mild of final week’s abortion rights ruling within the U.S. Supreme Courtroom, The Morning publication checked out how, in different superior democracies, together with Canada, courts are extra restrained.
There’s not a lot of Toronto in “The Man From Toronto.”
Vjosa Isai is a Canada information assistant at The New York Occasions. Observe her on Twitter at @lavjosa.
How are we doing?
We’re wanting to have your ideas about this article and occasions in Canada basically. Please ship them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Like this e-mail?
Ahead it to your pals, and allow them to know they will enroll right here.