THE NATIONAL FLAG OF CANADA
September 4th 2017
“The Many Loving Hands of Canada’s Maple Leaf Flag”
The Honourable John Ross Matheson wanted each and every Canadian to know the names of all the people who contributed in some way to bring a National Flag of Canada to fruition. The following is an in depth informative review of the individuals, agencies, Government of Canada departments and Parliamentary procedures which began in 1895/96 and concluded in 1964/65 in a final creation and design known as “The Canadian Maple Leaf Flag”
Defining the Effort:
In today’s world of fast pace change and online (non- committal) communication, I am totally convinced the majority of people on earth today have forgotten the intention of making a promise (giving your word).
I have spent the past 6½ years working every single day to fulfill a promise I made to a friend. It was, what I thought, a fairly straight forward and simple task which I now understand was a life changing commitment.
I made this promise to a person whom I respected and admired my entire life, I knew he would not ask me to make such a promise if it would be impossible to keep.
So here I am 6½ years later, having spent more than 15,000 hours reviewing over 40,000 documents and talking with several hundred Canadians in very important positions to ensure my promise is never compromised.
The promise I made to my friend the Honourable John Ross Matheson was to bring awareness to all Canadians the true facts and detailed credit of exactly who and how our beloved Canadian Maple Leaf Flag was brought to fruition in 1964/65. John asked me, Bob Harper, an average blue collar worker with no political or social prowess to undertake the process which would acknowledge the many loving hands who worked for nearly 100 years to bring a truly unifying National Flag of Canada into being.
In the 52 years since the birth of the most recognized symbol of Canada in the world there have been myths and overlooked contributions from individuals and credits exaggerated by others. These myths and stories have dominated the assumed historical account of whom and how the Canadian Maple Leaf Flag was created.
John Ross Matheson admitted he had made some errors in judgement in providing certain credits and was saddened to have realized the details of the work done by so many dedicated Canadians had been overlooked and not honoured in the proper way in our annals of history.
Mr. Matheson had made 2 attempts to rectify this injustice by bringing forward detailed credits in an October 1968 keynote speech at the Heraldry Society of Canada’s Annual meeting and again in 1991 in an acceptance speech at RMC. In both of these cases his plea to set the record straight was not heeded.
Mr. Matheson accomplished so much in his life and had given Canada so much, he believed in the phrase “your word is your bond” and this meant keeping your promises.
In July 1961, John Ross Matheson made a promise to Lester B. Pearson to begin researching what it would take to bring a National Flag of Canada to fruition. This promise was a commitment to a man who had made a promise to himself (Pearson) to do whatever it would take to bring an unmistakable symbol of Canada into being.
Well by now I am sure you have gathered enough of the preamble to understand making a promise can become a life changing commitment. Now here is when things get very interesting. How does an average everyday person go about fulfilling a promise in which the information available to the Canadian public is nearly 100 years old or has been documented incorrectly? Believe me when I say I now understand what I committed to when I made my promise to Mr. Matheson, and to be totally honest I would not change any part of it.
What I have realized over the past 6 ½ years is you do not have to be a PhD or a Rhodes Scholar to bring the truth to the forefront. What you really need is persistence, tenacity, and the help of a lot of people. Asking for help has never been my greatest attribute, but it is now!!!
I have been able to fulfill this promise with the help and support of my wife Sue our adopted “Auntie Anne” and some very generous friends. I have also been provided with support from our community, MP, MPP and no less than 7 Government of Canada Departments and agencies.
I have had conversations with some of the highest ranking Government of Canada officials and department heads as well as leaders in the areas of Heraldry, History, Heritage and Education and highly regarded journalists. My unorthodox methods of reaching out to some of these truly exceptional Canadians was sometimes funny and I know I probably did not provide the level of respect their positions were used to getting, but, I got it done.
In one such detailed communication a very highly respected authority referred to me as a “Bull in a China Shop” and that is how I came across with my line of questions I am sure.
The intent of this paper is to bring awareness to what you can accomplish as an individual if you are willing to do whatever it takes to fulfill your promise. I know I have matured and probably did not take my commitments as seriously when I was young but I hope this story will bring a new sense of self values to the reader.
It has been said that as a human being there will be many people who come in and out of your life, what I have discovered is although many people use the word “friend” what they really mean is “associate” or “acquaintance”. Friend is a word which should mean something very special where as an associate or acquaintance are every day interpersonal contacts. These terms are used in everyday communication with family, fellow workers, sports groups and neighbourhoods around the entire world, so I will now ask you the reader “how many true friends” do you have?
I would really like to have everyone who reads this paper reflect on that question and ask themselves what you would do to keep a promise made to a friend.
Over the past 6½ years I have grown as a person and achieved things I could have never even thought of 10 years ago. I formed a committee to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Canadian Maple Leaf Flag and completed 6 community based projects all relating to the National Flag of Canada.
I truly believe all 6 projects have brought awareness to the history of whom and how our most recognized symbol of Canada was brought to fruition and also how it is viewed around the entire world. I have successfully worked with Municipal, Provincial and Federal Governments, Members of Parliament, Members of the Ontario Legislature, The History Museum of Canada, Canadian Heritage, the Heraldry Authority of Canada, Several Universities, Ontario Ministry of Education as well as numerous other Government of Canada departments and agencies to bring the true detailed facts to the forefront.
I have successfully collaborated with the Canadian Encyclopedia (Historica Minute) group and been recognized by the Nation Research Council of Canada for our work to bring awareness to each and every individual or organization’s effort to bring the Canadian Maple Leaf Flag to fruition. I have also written 2 books on the subject.
All of this work has been done with one single mission in mind, to keep my promise.
Although I have endured some very mean spirited individuals, the over-all positive response to all of this work and detailed research has been truly gratifying and overwhelming to say the least. There will always be naysayers in any large effort, but, I can say with the utmost conviction the truth will always prevail. Also if you can remember the divisive time of the Great Flag Debate in 1964, Canadians have come a very long way on a promise.
I would like to bring forth the result of exactly what my promise to the Honourable John Ross Matheson has produced as a document, with in this story a chronological and detailed account of who and how our beloved Canadian Maple Leaf Flag was brought to fruition in 1964/65.
More than 52 years after the Birth of the Canadian Maple Leaf Flag the following chronological, factual account has been compiled and verified by exhaustive research of archival documents, journals, magazine articles, newspaper reports and interviews with some of the last surviving participants responsible for bringing the “NOW” most recognized symbol of Canada in the World to fruition in 1964/65. This research was conducted by myself, Robert J. Harper and a team of dedicated professionals over the past 6½ years to ensure the request of the “Father of Our Flag” John Ross Matheson was honoured. Mr. Matheson wrote in an acceptance speech in 1991 his desire that the many loving hands who had worked for nearly 100 years to bring a unifying National Flag of Canada to fruition be recognized and honoured. The following provides this recognition.
The foregoing account and detailed credits are a culmination of my work for the past 6½ years and fulfills my promise to John Ross Matheson. I have been humbled as well as proud to have worked this hard to bring this information together so all Canadians have the opportunity to know the names of the many loving hands who worked for nearly 100 years to bring the now most recognized symbol of Canada into being.
This paper is intended to provide historical information, recognition of people and organizations but most of all as the author of this paper I am hoping that each and every person who reads it will have a new found self-awareness of your values as Canadians and a true sense of what it means to make and keep a promise to a friend.
Robert J. (Bob) Harper
List of research contacts:
2010 – 2017
The following link is to Canadian Heritage website where they now have the updated History of the National Flag of Canada
- The Making of the Canadian Flag
- Proper credit finally given to the many contributors
- Canadian Flag Holiday – February 15th – Lets Celebrate Our Flag
- How Canada’s Flag was brought to fruition
- Canadian Maple Leaf Flag Honour List
- 160ft flag pole the largest in Eastern Ontario along the 401
- Dedication of 14 murals at 1000 Islands Mall
- 1yr countdown to 50th anniversary of the Canadian flag
- John Ross Matheson passes away at 96