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You can’t enforce Canadian patriotism

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Should Danny Williams have gone to jail for taking down Canadian flags?

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 06/10/2011 (4137 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Should Danny Williams have gone to jail for taking down Canadian flags?

In a snit over failed Atlantic accord talks in 2004, the then-premier called a news conference to announce all Canadian flags at government buildings were going to disappear until the federal government smartened up. An accord was reached, though not until after the premier had quietly put the flags back up.

But going to jail? Well, that seems to be the thrust of new private member’s bill tabled in Ottawa.

Conservative backbencher John Carmichael wants to make it illegal to prevent someone from raising the Canadian flag in a responsible fashion.

As a corollary, therefore, it should be illegal to remove a Canadian flag if others want it to remain.

Government flags are government property, and Williams was the premier, so perhaps he had de facto authority to do what he wanted. But what if a commissioner or other official objected? Under the proposed new rule, Williams might have been breaking the law.

Tangly, that. Downright silly, in fact.

And that’s just what this proposed law is: silly.

Many opposition MPs — notably interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae — certainly think so.

No one can argue with the patriotic sentiment, said Rae, and he expects the law will pass easily. But he also feels it’s a thinly veiled diversion from more important issues.

“It is definitely an attempt to change the channel,” he told reporters.

Legislating patriotism is a key plank in the Conservative agenda these days. In the past few months, the government has put the “Royal” back on Canadian Air Force, and told embassies to dust off those pictures of the Queen and get them back on the walls.

Not just patriotism, therefore, but colonial patriotism.

In fact, Primer Minister Stephen Harper and Danny Williams share something in common: a desire to restore pride.

The provincial Tory logo under Williams was “Proud. Strong. Determined.”

“He gave us back our pride,” a voter remarked once, as if it had been accidentally thrown out with the bathwater. (Where did that pesky pride get to?)

At any rate, if Harper thinks enforced allegiance will win over all those anti-monarchists, he may want to reconsider. Patriotism — and allegiance to the Crown — comes from within, not without.

As the U.S. discovered long ago, sanctifying flags only draws out the contrarians. The flag becomes an easier target.

Carmichael’s flag bill was spurred primarily by complaints about condo boards and landlords asking residents to keep the building flag-free. Patriotism should trump clutter.

“All Canadians, no matter where they live, should be able to enjoy the privilege of expressing their love for our country by flying the Canadian flag,” he said.

OK. We’re with you on that.

But while we’re at it, let’s make sure that love of country doesn’t get confused with support of the ruling party. Because lately, blurring those lines seems to be another important plank in the Tory agenda.

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