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Niagara-on-the-Lake
Wednesday, August 10, 2022
Canadian flag will soon fly at Queen’s Royal Park
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Soon there will be no doubt on which side of the Niagara River resides the true north, strong and free.

Councillors unanimously approved the installation of a Canadian flag and flagpole at Queen's Royal Park, hoping to have it waving in the breeze before the Canada Summer Games start in August.

“Our Canadian flag punches well above its weight on a global recognition scale,” Niagara-on-the-Lake resident Ross Robinson, who led the charge for the flags installation, told council in a committee of the whole meeting on Monday.

“We are a relatively low population nation but our red and white flag is simple, elegant and leaves no doubt of the country it represents: our great country, Canada,” he said.

Robinson, a columnist for The Lake Report, first broached the idea in a Nov. 11 piece he wrote. 

“It’s an idea that is just so obvious. It’s one of those forehead-bumping moments where you wonder, ‘Why didn’t this happen a long time ago?’ ” he said in an interview Tuesday.

Robinson said the town and the country could use the unifying symbolism of the Canadian flag during a time when it is being “hijacked and misused” by protesters across the country. He related this to the original creation of the flag during the 1960’s.

“On January the 28th, 1965, then-prime minister Lester B. Pearson, as the flag was raised on Parliament Hill for the first time, he declared: ‘May the lands under which this new flag flies remain united in freedom and justice, tolerance, compassion and sensitivity towards all,’ ” Robinson told council.

“At this difficult time in Canada’s history we have a chance, here in Niagara-on-the-Lake, to show unity and not divisiveness.”

Robinson said he had done extensive polling of local residents “in the aisles of the Valu-marts and the Avondales and the Stagecoach and sports bars around town.”

The cost of the flagpole and its installation is being paid by Tom and Jim Caldwell of Caldwell Securities Ltd., Robinson said.

“Two longtime proud and patriotic NOTLers,” he said.

Coun. Clare Cameron was concerned the flag might be superseded by other interests as time wears on and requested a stipulation be added to the motion that the Canadian flag would be the only one flown on the pole.

That caveat was included but Lord Mayor Betty Disero said it is also something the town may put in a contract with the Caldwells.

Robinson said he had marked a spot in the park where he would like to see the flag installed but said it was best to leave the final decision up to the “experts” on town staff.

The flag request prompted Coun. Norm Arsenault to reflect on his days in the military.

“When I was in the forces back in the early '70s — the flag was in its infancy at that time — and everywhere I went, every country I went to, as we were sailing in that was one of the first comments that we heard, how beautiful our flag was,” Arsenault said.

Kevin Turcotte, manager of parks and recreation,  said staff manage 16 flag poles across the municipality and did not want to commit staff time to raising and lowering the flag on special occasions.

“I can tell you it was my understanding that (the Caldwells) wanted the Canadian flag to fly freely without being raised and lowered at any time,” Disero said.

But Robinson said the flag has to be lowered during certain special occasions.

“There’s occasions when the flag must be lowered, like when a prominent leader of the country or town dies. Not every little flag, mind you, but this one, why not?” Robinson said on Tuesday.

Robinson, who used to run the “Oh Canada, Eh?” dinner show, said flagpoles were installed outside of the building where the show was hosted.

“We used to send a bartender or a busboy out to (raise or lower the flag). It took him about six minutes to do it,” Robinson said.

Turcotte also told council that town staff try to “preserve Queen's Royal Park and its natural views.”

He said all furnishings in the area such as picnic tables and waste baskets are made from natural material and painted dark brown to blend in with the environment, and town staff routinely refuse requests to add trees and memorial benches to the park so the sightline onto Lake Ontario is maintained.

Robinson said the idea of Queen's Royal Park being a completely natural asset was not entirely accurate and pointed to the much loved gazebo as an example.

“People think it's been there forever. It was used as part of a movie set or location and just never got taken out and was donated to the town by the movie company,” he said.

In 1983, Christopher Walken starred in the film “The Dead Zone,” which was partially filmed in Niagara-on-the-Lake. The gazebo was built for the film and then donated after production wrapped.

“Hardly historic,” Robinson said.

Cameron said she hoped town staff would take the natural views of the park into consideration when choosing a spot to install the flag.

“There’s no doubt the Canadian flag is one of the most recognizable flags in the world. I think we’re all proud of it,” Arsenault said.