Statement made on 15 February 2012 by Senator Roméo Dallaire
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire:
Honourable senators, 47 years ago today we witnessed the birth of our greatest national symbol. This is National Flag Day of Canada. Since then, the red and white Maple Leaf, Canada's national flag, has become a symbol of hope, tolerance and democracy as seen on flag poles, backpacks and even on combat uniforms of our brave men and women serving overseas and at home.
My dad, a veteran of World War II and a career soldier who joined the army in 1929, as well as my father-in-law who joined the army in 1928 and also served six years overseas, fought under the Red Ensign. In so doing, they had a difficult question to solve in regard to accepting the red maple leaf as the national symbol. However, they turned warmly to it and it took little to no time for them to accept that that is the symbol of Canada into the future, which we should be proud to serve under and also make the sacrifices needed to advance what we believe in: tolerance, hope, respect and democracy.
I am proud to pay specific tribute to this great flag and to one great Canadian in particular who made this possible: Lieutenant-Colonel John Ross Matheson, Judge Matheson, born in Arundel, Quebec, in 1917. John Matheson was a student when the Second World War broke out. He trained at the Royal Military College of Canada and served with the 1st Regiment Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, my old regiment, in Italy. On December 1, 1943, he was wounded by six pieces of shrapnel while crossing the Moro River.
After returning from war, Major Matheson's injuries left him paraplegic and epileptic. However, he pursued careers in law and politics. He served as a Liberal member of Parliament from 1961 to 1968. During that time, and under the leadership of Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, Mr. Matheson was the driving force behind the committee responsible for selecting the new flag of Canada.
He was instrumental in choosing the current maple leaf design and is referred to by many as the father of the Canadian flag. The inspiration for the flag came to him while looking over MacKenzie Building at the Royal Military College and seeing the flag of that college flying. That college flag has the two red symbols on the extents and the royal military college emblem in the centre. It was from that red, the army red, that the flag built its conceptual design that was ultimately accepted as the Canadian Maple Leaf, the Canadian flag.
Judge Matheson's achievements are individually impressive — together, they are truly exceptional. Please join me in celebrating this remarkable Canadian, this decorated and injured veteran, this judge of the courts who brought enormous stability to our nation and a point of great recognition to our future and our future endeavours with his most recognizable accomplishment. We thank him and we wish him well in his continued good health.