Harper: "The Red Ensign of 1917 will fly over Vimy"

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Red Ensign flag in use 1868-1921.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has requested the Canadian Red Ensign flag fly at Vimy Ridge ceremonies next month, Harper told his cabinet ministers that he wanted both the Red Ensign and the Maple Leaf hoisted in Vimy, France, at the 90th anniversary of the First World War battle, sources close to the Prime Minister said.

"He said, 'The Red Ensign of 1917 will fly over Vimy,' " one source told The Globe and Mail last week.

The Honourable Jason Kenney the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism, and Canadian Identity, all but confirmed this week that both flags would be raised. "Canadian Red Ensign of 1917 will fly in France next month to commemorate the 90th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge and the re-dedication of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial."

The decision was hailed as a victory by veterans' groups and advocates, who have been lobbying Ottawa to have the historical ensign displayed over the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. Veterans Affairs cited a governmental protocol that allows no other flag than the Maple Leaf to fly on federal property. The land on which the Vimy Memorial was built was donated to Canada by France. "We know where the veterans are coming from . . . but we have to follow protocol," said Janice Summerby, a spokeswoman for Veterans Affairs.

Meanwhile a new poll has indicated that a majority of Canadians want their two national flags to fly at Vimy ridge next month.

The Ipsos Reid survey finds 79 per cent of respondents support the idea of flying both the current flag and the old Canadian 'Red Ensign' during a ceremony marking the 90th anniversary in April. At the time of the famous WWI battle at Vimy Ridge, the Canadian flag was the Red Ensign, which includes the Royal Union.

In 1965, the flag was changed to today's Maple Leaf design after heated debate across the country.