justin tang john matheson canadian flag
January 06, 2014

RIP Uncle John, thanks for the great flag

1917 - 2013 John Matheson, 'Father" of the Canadian Flag I remember as a young boy going to visit 'Uncle John' and he’d let us feel the shrapnel in his head from the war. He always stood out as quite the character.  In fact, years later I remember at my cousin Mark’s wedding we’d just finished the church ceremony out side of town and were preparing to hop in the cars and drive to the reception. I was chatting with uncle Peter, asking what a speaker of the house of commons actual did, when uncle John rolled up. He’d had a stroke years before and was now confined to an electric wheel chair but that didn't seem to slow him down. He asked us where the reception was and then just bolted off in his electric wheel chair, leading the charge off down the highway. Peter and I looked at each other with a mutual look that mixed surprise with panic. @#$&%$#!  A couple of cousins jumped in the car and we formed sort of escort just to be safe, but I don't think he needed it. It was clear to me then that Uncle John was a man used to carving his own path in life.

Mom would often tells us about how her Uncle John designed the Canadian flag in 1965 and started the Order of Canada in 1967, but we had no concept of what that meant. My brothers and I just thought the shrapnel was cool. It's hard to believe that our flag is not even 50 years old yet. It serves as a reminder that we are a young country, still in the early stages of forming our identity. Before it's adoption 1965 we'd been using mostly the Union Jack  flag of the United Kingdom and briefly the Canadian Red Ensign. The Union Jack was nice, but it wasn't ours and the Red Ensign looks like something designed by a committee. Luckily we chose a unique flag that's now recognized around the world and is now synonymous with our friendly and easy going Canadian sensibilities. It's said that our American neighbours sometimes put Canadian flags on their backpacks while travelling to take advantage of the reputation that accompanies our brand.

          Union Jack Flag
Canadian Red Ensign

Thinking of John, I often wonder what politics and politicians used to be like. I don’t get the impression guys like him where smoking crack or trying to cook the books. Looking a the obituary for John Ross Matheson I was overwhelmed. It's clear he lived his live to serve others and make the world around him a better place. Thank you for helping to make our country what it is today and for the outstanding example you have set.

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