A note from an American visitor to Sidney sparked a debate about the town’s treatment of the Maple Leaf flag.
The flag in question is on a big commercial building, on Beacon Avenue between 1st and 2nd streets, that houses the Canada Post store. According to the note, signed Pat from Oregon, the flag fell to half-mast in December and is now on the bottom third of the pole hanging upside down.
To the author, this is a grave insult to the flag and country of Canada.
“I can’t believe NO Canadians have bothered to bring this to your news photographer’s attention. Does no one care about their flag?”
The note, written in block capital letters, says the author is in town looking after sick relatives, and they love Sidney and hate what they see as a mark of disrespect.
Although official government rules state that the flag is a symbol of national pride and “should not be subjected to indignity,” there is no law against the flag being desecrated, damaged or even burned.
Such acts, while very rare, fall under freedom of expression legislation.
Ironically, one of the most prominent times the Canadian flag was burned was by the American hate group The Westboro Baptist Church in 1999.
Flag burning is not illegal in the United States either, but since 1991 there have been 40 amendment attempts by Senators to make flag destruction a federal crime.
Don Fisher, Sergeant at Arms of Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans Sidney takes a balanced view of the situation.
“Normally a flag upside down means they’re in trouble,” he says referencing the military system of indicating if a ship needs assistance. “We don’t show our loyalties to our country as obviously as the Americans. We do that in other ways.”
He then adds, “It’s (the upside down flag) unfortunate, someone should contact the owner.”
Canada Post say that the flag is damaged due to the recent snow storms and they think it is the building owner’s responsibility to fix the flag, while they say he thinks it is up to Canada Post.
Last time the flag was damaged it is reported the fire department stepped in and fixed it. Sidney Fire Chief Brett Mikkelsen has said his department have volunteered to do it again and should have the situation fixed by the end of the week.
So the question residents are asking is – should fixing the flag be a matter of national and civic pride or is it an unfortunate incident that’s a low priority?