Victor Crapnell poses a question many other Canadians have been asking: How do we get our flag back?
It makes the Victoria man squirm to see the way it has been co-opted for political purposes, turned into the representation of something that doesn’t represent him at all.
“I grew up in Ottawa, and when the insurrection or protest or whatever you want to call it happened, I was glued to the TV,” he says. “I was appalled by how our beautiful flag was hijacked by people who called themselves freedom fighters.”
It hurt even more to see angry dissidents in other countries — France, Australia, New Zealand, the U.S. — adopt our flag, too, making it synonymous with beliefs that would leave many Canadians choking on their Timbits.
“I really felt it had been marred,” Crapnell says.
So the graphic artist decided to push back a bit. He designed a hockey-puck-sized adhesive sticker urging people to restore the tarnished maple leaf to its former place of glory.
“Canada,” the sticker reads. “Take back your flag.”
The artwork depicts the flag crushing a transport truck, the idea being that no convoy is a match for the power of the maple leaf. When Crapnell’s wife pointed out that the great majority of Canada’s truckers have nothing to do with the protests, yet have been tarred by association, he tried to create some separation for them by adding the misspelled words Freedumb Konvoy to the crushed big rig.
Crapnell is still a bit unsure about how he’ll distribute the stickers. He has been giving them away so far, but if demand rises, he’ll have to pay more for production and shipping, so might charge a buck to cover his costs. (If interested, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Mostly, he says, he just wants to encourage Canadians to reclaim the maple leaf.
“I want my flag back,” he says. “I want it waved in celebration and happiness. I want to see a return of our flag as a symbol of tolerance, friendliness and acceptance around the world. I want to fly a Canadian flag without being labelled a redneck.”
Now, we can assume that those protesting pandemic measures don’t like being cast in this light. They can argue, rightly, that they have as much right as anyone to wave the maple leaf.
They can also argue, rightly, that plenty of others — political parties, corporations, whatever — wrap themselves in the flag out of self-interest. (Remember 2000’s The Rant, which married chest-thumping I. Am. Canadian. nationalism to drinking beer?)
The difference is that only the protesters managed to turn the flag into the very symbol of their movement. Wherever they go, there are more flapping flags than a used car lot. It got to the point where anyone displaying a maple leaf was eyed warily, like a passing pit bull.
Admit it: four months ago, you assumed anyone flying a flag from the car window was either A) demonstratively patriotic, or B) looking for an easy way to find their car at Costco, but now you see one and wonder if you should C) cross the street to avoid a long, fuzzy diatribe about charter rights, pandemic measures and that damn commie Trudeau. (I know one guy who has driven around with a flag on his car for years, but now wears a mask while doing so, too, just to avoid getting lumped in.)
Should the convoy protesters be blamed for their success in turning the flag into their brand? All they’re doing is looking at the government, the health authorities and other institutions and saying: “I’m Canadian and you don’t reflect me.”
If so, then other Canadians shouldn’t be blamed for replying: “You don’t reflect me, either, so stop equating my flag with things I don’t believe in.”
That’s what Crapnell is asserting. He says people he speaks to generally agree, though fear makes them reluctant to put his sticker on their cars. “Then I suggest just a small flag sticker,” he says. “I even encourage the use of lapel pins. And a flag respectfully flown at home.”
Maybe all this will resolve itself anyway. The convoys appear to have run out of gas. Still, look at how easily this relatively tiny group was able to claim the road unopposed.
Enough, Crapnell says. “I want to get a respectful dialogue going about our flag, our country and what it means to be Canadian.”