Learning from Labrador

By Scott Mainwaring
Vexilloid Tabloid #63

The flag of the Canadian region of Labrador—the mainland portion of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador—is enjoying a resurgence of interest and adoption, flying at the border crossings with Quebec and at the city hall of the provincial capital of St. Johns.

The flag is documented particularly well in the online Flags of the World database (crwflags.com/fotw/flags/ca-nl-lb.html), thanks to a concise 2002 essay posted there by its designer, Labradorian and former provincial legislator Michael S. Martin.

The case of Labrador’s flag provides a number of useful lessons for flag adoption.

First, the 1974 flag was a labor of love by Martin, his wife Patricia, and a close circle of friends—not the result of a bureaucratic process or referendum.

Second, the Martins did not initially make just a few flags to display.  Patricia, “the Betsy Ross of Labrador”, sewed 64—enough for every town and village in Labrador… and then some!

Last, it provides a word of caution about copyrighting a flag.

ca-nl-lb
A copyright-avoidant variant

Annoyed by sloppy versions being used on souvenir items, Martin attempted to enforce conformity to the original design by copyrighting it.  But this only resulted in manufacturers purposely varying the design to avoid infringement, resulting in confusion and inconsistency.

(The holders of the flag’s copyright actually encourage people “to use the flag whenever and wherever possible”.)

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Author: SDM

Ethnography * Technology * Design

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