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Many don't understand tradition of lowering flags at half-mast - Martin Johnston

I am mystified at the attitude of Canadians regarding the lowering of flags. It seems Canadians no longer understand the tradition and symbolic nature of this honour, and it is time we relearn what it is about.

I am mystified at the attitude of Canadians regarding the lowering of flags. It seems Canadians no longer understand the tradition and symbolic nature of this honour, and it is time we relearn what it is about.

There was a time in this country when the symbolism of the maple leaf was taught in school. There was a time the lowering of the flag had great significance and meaning for our nation.

In the past 25 years, I have seen the tradition of "half-masting" the national flag be misused more and more. It has become a symbol that has had its meaning misunderstood as a result.

Now the national flag is lowered in many areas not only to honour fallen soldiers and police officers or elected officials, it is also lowered in response to just about anything. I have witnessed our national symbol lowered for sports figures, students, accident victims, victims of crimes, victims of disease and the list goes on.

When the public is immersed in a culture that lowers the flag under almost any circumstance its no wonder that its meaning and symbolism is eventually lost.

The flag of Canada is a national symbol and traditionally its ceremonial use is reserved for those who serve the country. It is not and never has been a device for honouring the general public. For citizens, this can be accomplished using provincial or municipal flags. To lower our national symbol for those who have not served the nation does more to dishonour those who have served than not lowering the flag on the Peace Tower can ever display.

For our men and women of our armed forces, the highest honour is not the "half-masting" of our flag. It is being afforded the right of having our casket draped with it. That is a right that is reserved for those who serve a nation. And it is time we return to the tradition of using our national flag as it is meant to be used.

Lowering the flag on Nov. 11  is a way to honour all fallen members of our armed forces as they have all paid the price. I feel that a return to tradition where our national symbol is only lowered for those who have served the nation speaks much louder than lowering the national symbol at will.

Martin Johnston
Calgary, Alta.
(formerly of Sudbury)




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