“As for politicians: Please, I beg you, salute only one flag in Canada, the Canadian flag. Also, sing only one national anthem — O Canada”
March 26, 2014
The Toronto Sun
From haggis to samosas, St. Patrick’s Day to Black History Month, our calendar, culture and cuisine have been enriched like few other nations, yet we all remain and retain our primary identity as Canadians.
Or do we?
Two events this week caused me to wonder.
Pakistan National Day
On March 23, Markham hoisted the Pakistan flag over its City Hall to celebrate “Pakistan Day” commemorating March 23, 1941, when the idea of partitioning British India into two countries was first floated.
As a policy, that decision eventually led to a million deaths and the creation of 10 million refugees.
As someone who was born in Pakistan, had this been the celebration of a cultural aspect of Pakistani-Canadian life in Canada, I’d have gladly joined in.
But when Canadians are encouraged to sing the national anthem of another country they or their parents left to seek a new life in Canada, that crosses the line, in my view.
What is worse, politicians fall into this trap. For fear of losing vote banks to their opponents, they end up encouraging those who are, unwittingly, diluting the essence of Canadian citizenship.
Yet there they were, hoisting the flag of a country from which close to 4,000 Islamist militants have gone to fight the jihad in Syria.
In hoisting the flag of Pakistan and celebrating its national day, these politicians unwittingly endorsed the idea of Pan-Islamism, whose embryo was planted that day in 1941 and has led to millions of dead, including Canadians killed in Afghanistan.
Even if Pakistan shared our values of freedom of speech and gender equality, why would a city fly the flag of another country? Do our cities fly the Stars & Stripes on July 4 each year?
Independence Day of Greece
Also on March 23, it was the turn of the Greek community in Canada to take over Danforth Avenue in Toronto to celebrate Greece’s Independence Day.
Again, politicians were there to gladhand second-and-third generations of Greek Canadians for votes.
I am all for the “Taste of Danforth” festival that celebrates our country’s Greek heritage and culture and the many contributions the Greek-Canadian community has made to Canada.
But Greece’s Independence Day? Were the people waving Greece’s flag citizens of Greece or Canada?
Or does this even matter to those who run our country?
If one of the main arteries of Toronto can be shut down to celebrate Greece’s Independence Day, why not do the same for Israel’s Independence Day, while allowing Palestinians to observe “Al-Naqba”, which considers the creation of the state of Israel to be a disaster?
While we are at it, what about a day and closed streets for Eritreans and Ethiopians? How about one for the failed independence bid by the Tamils of Sri Lanka?
To those hyphenated Canadians who wish to sing the national anthems of other countries, please sing it to your hearts’ content, but if you are a citizen of Canada, your anthem is O Canada.
As for politicians: Please, I beg you, salute only one flag in Canada, the Canadian flag. Also, sing only one national anthem — O Canada.