Dear New Zealand:
Oh, wait. That’s an Australian thing, isn’t it? I’ll bet you found that just a little insulting. So, as we say in Canada, sorry. What do you say down there? The Internet tells me that the Maori have three different ways of saying hello depending on how many people you are addressing — kia ora, tena koe, tena korua, and tena koutou — but that seems awfully complicated. So let’s just use the universal greeting, of ‘hey’.
Let’s get down to the subject of this letter. Our prime minister Stephen Harper has been visiting your wonderful country. He’s in the neighbourhood to attend the G8 summit in Australia, and he figured since he was in the neighbourhood, he might as well drop by. Thanks to his visit, New Zealand has been in the news here, which is nice. News from New Zealand is about as rare here as news from Canada is in New Zealand.
I’ve been reading that you’re talking about designing a new flag. Well, bob’s your uncle (again, the Internet says that’s a New Zealand expression, which seems unlikely, but the Internet never lies, right?). Good on ya. I hear you’re having binding referendums on the matter in 2015 and 2016. I’m not quite sure why it takes two votes over two years; New Zealand is not a big country (it’s actually smaller than my home province of Alberta —268,000 sq. km vs. 661,000 sq. km) so why it would take two votes to decide on a flag is beyond me. Canadians are famously reticent people, but even we can decide things in one election. But, I guess you have your reasons.
Your prime minister, John Key, is the man behind the flag proposal, and he even used our flag debate in a major speech on the proposal.
“Fifty years on, I can’t imagine many Canadians would, if asked, choose to go back to the old flag,” he said, as you probably know.
As a Canadian, let me assure you that the prime minister speaks the truth. Not only would precious few Canadians want to go back to the old flag, even fewer Canadians know that we used to HAVE an old flag. Seriously, we do NOT know our history.
For the record, here’s what it looked like. Not particularly inspiring, is it? But at the time of the flag debate — or “flag flap” if you prefer alliteration — Canada was still very much of a white, anglo-saxon country with strong ties to Great Britain. But our prime minister, Lester Pearson, knew that Canada was changing. He also recognized that the old flag had pretty much zero significance to the French speaking population of Canada.
I won’t go into the details, but despite uncompromising opposition from Pearson’s nemesis, former prime minister John Diefenbaker, the flag was adopted and flown for the first time on Feb. 15, 1965. And I can say, with uncharacteristically Canadian certainty, that it has been a hit. If you look at a flag as your country’s corporate logo, it’s perfect; it’s like the apple of Apple. There is no question when you see our flag that it’s the Canadian flag, and we love it for that. It has become such a symbol of Canada, that innumerable American tourists have slapped it on their backpacks so that people would think they were beloved Canadians rather than less-beloved Americans.
That’s why you should change your flag, friends. Your current flag is rather, shall we say, nondescript. Kind of like our old one. And, as you know, it looks an awful like the Australian flag, which much really irk you. I know it would tick me off.
So I say, go for it.I encourage you to shuck the symbols of your colonial past and join the 20th century, even if you’re about a century late. If we can put a leaf on our flag and fall in love with it, there’s no reason why you can’t put a fern on your flag and fall in love with it.
Cheers, mate. Say hello to the Flight of the Conchords. I love those guys.
PS: It’s -15C here today, and snowing. Do you accept applications for citizenship?