The Canadian flags along the fence at Lions Centennial Park will be taken down, as scheduled, on Nov. 14. (Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)

David Marsden: Let’s raise a flag for freedom

It seems extraordinary that anyone would be taken to task for flying the Canadian flag.

It’s happened before, of course, when the busybody managers of one of Sylvan Lake’s condominiums tried to discipline occupants for recently showing symbols of pride on their balconies.

The narrow-minded rules prohibited outdoor decorations, but didn’t differentiate between whimsical bobbles and clutter, and the Maple Leaf, a cherished symbol of our nation.

This time, it’s the Ponoka Legion.

It finds itself at odds with Sylvan Lake’s Al Cameron and his Veterans Voices of Canada, which is best known locally for its impressive Flags of Remembrance display of 128 Maple Leafs along the community’s waterfront and on Highway 11.

The flags represent “the 128,000 Canadian military and RCMP killed and missing in action service personnel lost in service from the Boer War to current missions,” says his website.

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His seemingly endless display of flags is a stirring sight, especially on a cold fall day, with a strong wind blowing along the lake or on the highway.

This year, the tribute wavered from its roots: “AND for 2020 only and because of the current Covid-19 Pandemic crisis, we feel its important to honour our front line medical personnel heroes.

“Contact us to do just that and show them how much they are appreciated,” the website states in reference to the $250-per-flag sponsorships.

So Cameron, a man dedicated to honouring our veterans, is prepared to elbow aside the memory of some of our service people for today’s front-line workers.

It seems odd that he, of anybody, would place front-line employees, such as nurses and paramedics, in the same category as our veterans.

None of the front-line workers I know, such as those who work in grocery stores and post offices, would think they belong alongside our veterans.

Our front-line workers are special and respected in a different manner.

Cameron says the Flags of Remembrance has been a trademarked and copyrighted name since 2014.

He says he had an agreement with the Ponoka Legion to replicate the Flags of Remembrance tribute in the town in 2015 and 2016.

There’s reportedly been a bit of back-and-forth talk with the Legion, which has had a large display of flags for years.

If the Legion made any misstep in mounting its own heartfelt expression of remembrance this fall, it was flying Cameron’s flag alongside the Maple Leafs it chose to mount in tribute.

Lesson learned.

Still, Cameron’s position is a head scratcher.

He has built a lucrative cause based around the waving of the Canadian flag in memory of those who have served our country.

And yet he bristles when Canadians, in this case, veterans, create a display that tugs at our hearts and urges us to reflect on our proud past, our privileged present and unwritten future.

The Ponoka Legion apparently disagreed with Cameron’s belief that every flag should be accompanied by a paid-for plaque. Perhaps they also disagreed that some of the proceeds should be payable to his business charity

Good for the Legion.

There shouldn’t be a price put on patriotism and freedom. In every year but this year, given the pandemic, the dime a little boy drops in the poppy box is worth just as much as the 10 dollars a mom deposits.

The gesture, just like hoisting the Canadian flag in November, is about recognizing those who fought for our shared values and the fight against tyranny.

In other words, Canadians don’t like being told what to do.

David Marsden is managing editor of the Red Deer Advocate.

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