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.
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”.)
In a surprise announcement today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced revisions to the Canadian flag “to bring it more in line with international standards”:
It has come to my attention that due to our garish and outdated 1960s-era maple leaf flag, many Canadians and would-be Canadians are not sufficiently appreciative of our glorious colonial past and continuing subjecthood to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Therefore, inspired by the courageous citizens of New Zealand who last week rejected a blatant attempt to remove the Union Jack of the Motherland from their national flag, I am announcing that as of Her Majesty’s birthday on the 21st of this month, Canada will revise its flag to be more in line with its southern hemisphere brethren.
Keen-eyed vexillologists may note that the new Canadian flag features “inverted” stars. Its designer, Chief Herald of CanadaClaire Boudreau, FRHDC AH explains that these reflect Canada’s antipodal relationship to New Zealand and Australia. When asked about the similarity to the Big Dipper flag of the US state of Alaska, Boudreau said she could neither confirm nor deny a relation to Canada’s plans for 21st century expansion, and instead noted that Alaska’s flag ranked 5th out of 72 US state and Canadian provincial flags evaluated in NAVA’s 2001 State/Provincial Flag Survey and thus was a “proven design”. Regarding the dramatic shift in overall color, from red to blue, she would only say “for once the Québécois should be happy”.
Note: The eight stars on the new flag refer to the eight Canadian provinces that matter, with the large pole star Polaris corresponding to Ontario, seat of the central government. The Chief Herald explained, “Simplicity is paramount in flag design, and representing all provinces would have required 10 stars or something. And, let’s face it, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador, don’t really matter much in the grand scheme of things — or even in the Canadian scheme of things.”
Long-time PFA member Michael Orelove is recovering from a medical emergency. We will miss having his good-natured enthusiasm at our meetings, and wish him a full and expeditious return to health. Here is a photo essay he put together for our most recent newsletter.
When I take a trip, I pack clean underwear, my toothbrush, and some flags. I also pick up more flags along the way. In October Kathleen and I took a 10-day cruise through New England and Canada on a Holland America ship.
Aboard the Eurodam: Boston city flag…Holland America presented me with a city flag of Boston (or should I say “Bostonia”?) as we sailed away.
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island: Prince Edward Island flag…Holland America presented me with the P.E.I.’s provincial flag as we left Charlottetown.
Nova Scotia: Nova Scotia flag…The province has over 160 historic lighthouses. Peggy’s Point Lighthouse is one of Nova Scotia’s best-known lighthouses and may be the most-photographed in Canada. Located in the quaint fishing village of Peggy’s Cove, the lighthouse was built in 1915.
Boston: Portland (Oregon) city flag…The Samuel Adams statue in Boston represents the Revolutionary patriot, clad in the citizen’s dress of the period, standing erect, with folded arms and a determined look in his finely-chiseled face. It’s a fitting backdrop for the Portland city flag, given that our last mayor was named Sam Adams.
New York: Portland Flag Association flag…Our flag gets around. “Give me your tired, your poor…”
Saguenay, Quebec: Québec flag…Inside the Arthur Villeneuve house museum I spotted a Québec flag flying proudly.
Rockland, Maine: Rockland Yacht Club burgee…When we got off the cruise ship in Rockland I saw the Rockland Yacht Club. Since I don’t have its burgee, Kathleen took my photo so I could send the club an image with a request for an old burgee.
I use the flags that I acquire on these trips, as well as those sent me by governments and other entities, when I give flag talks to school and community groups.