Quotulatiousness

July 15, 2017

The Canadian Red Ensign

Filed under: Cancon, History, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Elizabeth mentioned to me the other day that some idiots in the Canadian alt-right movement are attempting to hijack the Canadian Red Ensign as their version of the Confederate battle flag. Given how historically illiterate reporters tend to be, it’s not surprising that they appear to be buying this line in their coverage of protest groups like the “Proud Boys”. In the Edmonton Journal, Paula Simons tries to put in a good word for the flag Canada used up until 1965:

Canadian Red Ensign 1921-1957 (this is the version I’ve been flying outside my house for over a decade)

First they came for Pepe the Frog. And I said nothing because, to be honest, I didn’t much care that alt-right trolls and white supremacists had co-opted an innocent cartoon frog meme for their own foul purposes.

But now they’ve come for the Red Ensign.

On Canada Day, a small group of alt-right agitators who called themselves the Proud Boys disrupted a First Nations ceremonial event in Halifax. They arrived carrying a Red Ensign flag.

While the Red Ensign was never Canada’s official flag, different variations of it served as Canada’s de facto symbol from 1868 until 1965, when we adopted the red-and-white Maple Leaf flag.

The Proud Boys aren’t alone.

All kinds of conservative fringe groups have adopted the Red Ensign as their standard in recent years. They range from the pseudo-intellectual Northern Dawn movement to the more overtly neo-Nazi Aryan Guard. The idea is to somehow turn the Red Ensign into the Canadian version of the Confederate flag, a symbol of white supremacy. The flag, they believe, hearkens back to some mythical era of when Canada was “pure” and “white.”

This ahistorical appropriation of the Red Ensign isn’t new. It goes back to the early 2000s. But the Proud Boys, the anti-feminist, pro-white group started by journalist turned shock comic turned activist Gavin McInnes, have been getting much more attention. That’s because McInnes is such a canny public provocateur and a master media manipulator.

His racism, sexism and anti-Semitism are supposedly ironic and performative — he’s made hate-mongering into a kind of performance art.

[…]

The Red Ensign has been part of Canadian history since 1682 when the Hudson’s Bay Company flew a variation of the pennant over its forts and on its canoes. It followed Canadians into battle at Vimy Ridge and at Dieppe and Hong Kong and Normandy and Ortona. That’s the flag Canadians flew when they liberated Holland from the Nazis. It’s the flag Canadians flew when they defended South Korea at the Battle of Kapyong, the flag they flew when they went to keep peace in Cyprus.

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