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When do Canadians observe the National Flag of Canada Day?

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Canadians observe the National Flag of Canada Day on February 15th. It was on 15 February 1965 that the Canadian Red Ensign – the de facto Canadian national flag since 1868 – was officially retired and lowered for the last time and replaced by a new and distinctive heraldic design described as "Gules on a Canadian pale argent a maple leaf of the first". The National Flag of Canada, also known as the Canadian Flag or the Maple Leaf Flag was raised at ceremonies held at noon in each time zone across the country and around the world, with the first one taking place in Canada at Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. In Ottawa, the nation's capital, it was first raised on a special flagstaff erected in front of the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill and 31 years later, in 1996, 15 February was declared National Flag of Canada Day and has been observed annually since. It is worth noting that the maple leaf design was especially symbolic for the Canadian forces as many of the unit and regimental badges were based on the maple leaf design and had also been used in commemorating Canada's war dead by having it emblazoned onto the headstones of Canadian military graves of the First and Second World Wars. The National Flag of Canada is often prominently displayed in public places, including alongside memorials and on historic sites to express immense pride in their country and to demonstrate a proud sense of community, patriotism and gratitude. As shown in the photograph, such is the case at the war memorial located at the harbour village of Chester, Nova Scotia.

This magnificent statue of a soldier from the Nova Scotia Highlanders was unveiled on 4 August 1922 and was sculpted and donated by the famous Scottish sculptor J. Massey Rhind (9 July 1858 – 20 October 1936). The 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders), Canadian Expeditionary Force, was an infantry battalion which was active from September 1915 until it was demobilized in June 1919. During its European campaign the battalion earned a dozen battle honours, including Vimy, Ypres and Passchendaele, at a cost of about 600 men killed or missing and over 1,200 wounded. Affixed to the memorial's granite base are commemorative tablets listing Chester's fallen heroes, including: 53 from the Great War, 24 from the Second World War as well as Private Richard Anthony Green (b. 26 May 1980) killed in Kandahar, Afghanistan on 17 April 2002. The feelings of the community continue to reflect the words spoken by Arthur S. Barnstead (10 January 1873 – 26 December 1967), Deputy Provincial Secretary, acting for Premier George Henry Murray (7 June 1861 – 6 January 1929) who was unavoidably absent, at the 1922 unveiling ceremony: "The monument, while it would be a thing of beauty, and pleasing to the eye was more than mere stone and bronze. It would be a symbol to the present and to future generations – a symbol of the sacrifice which those whose names were inscribed thereon, had made in order that their kinsfolk might retain their liberty. The world would never forget their sacrifice, yet it was well that in each community there should be some outward and visible sign to reawaken in coming generations that homage which was their just due."

On this day, 15 February 2022, we celebrate the 57th anniversary of the raising of the Maple Leaf Flag and celebrate the 26th anniversary of the National Flag of Canada Day.

André M. Levesque

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