The “heart” flag, a local symbol of solidarity, gratitude and hope, has joined the Maple Leaf as an emblem of community pride in Victoria.
Every year in the lead up to July 1, Victoria’s Flag Shop sells hundreds of Canadian flags. This year the heart flag has joined the bestseller ranks. “Every year we get a surge of orders for the Maple Leaf thanks to national pride,” said owner Paul Servos. “But this year there has been a great demand for the heart flag as well. It’s not supplanting the Maple Leaf, but in combination. The last time I saw this was during Canada 150.”
The flag, which has a heart replacing the Maple Leaf in the centre, was conceived by the Times Colonist as a thank you to front-line workers. The idea was that readers would cut out the flag from the newspaper (or print their own from timescolonist.com) and affix it to their windows.
“My wife saw the article and told me to get my lazy [backside] down to the shop on a Sunday afternoon to make an actual flag for the Times Colonist,” Servos said.
It was supposed to be a one-off, custom flag sewn together by him, as his whole staff had been furloughed due to the pandemic.
He presented one flag to Times Colonist publisher and editor-in-chief Dave Obee and, a few days later, another to Ed Bain at CHEK TV.
“Mr. Obee asked me if I would consider printing more — and donate $5 from each sale to the Rapid Relief Fund,” Servos said. The fund, established by the Victoria Foundation, the Times Colonist and the Jawl family, raised $6 million for people in need during the pandemic.
At that time in early April, Servos and his staff had already been idle for three weeks.
He agreed and recalled his staff to start making the flags, ultimately manufacturing 500 at his factory in Vancouver.
The orders started coming in — but for a while the only way customers could get one was by curbside pickup or by mail as the store was closed to the public.
“It was a community program gone crazy,” he said. “The spin-off effects from the flag helped my small business survive and enabled me to bring back my employees.”
He still has a number of the original made-in-Canada flags available for $59.95. They’ve been joined by lower-cost ones made offshore. Standard sizes range from a handheld stick flag to one measuring six feet by 12 feet.
Five dollars from every sale continues to support people in need in the community.