Notes for an address about the naming of John Ross Matheson Way

May 13, 2013

Thank you.

Welcome everyone – honoured and honourable guests – members of the flag committee and of course our special guest The Honourable John Matheson.

As the Member of Parliament for Leeds-Grenville I am especially pleased to be here today to help recognize the work of one of my predecessors – one of the former MPs from Leeds – John Ross Matheson.

Although he continually deflects the accolades he receives as the Father of the Canadian Flag, and highlights the work that others who had gone before him had accomplished in this regard, it remains a fact that he was the right man, in the right place, at the right time to produce what has become a symbol of our great country that is instantly recognizable around the world.

It was a remarkable accomplishment in what had already been a storied life.

How many Canadians today know that when he was growing up in Quebec City he won first prize at school for his essay “Our Flag – The Union Jack?”

How many know that he fought back from a near fatal injury in the Second World War to earn his law degree while still recovering from his war injury?

He completed that degree at Osgoode Hall and came to Brockville in 1949 to open his own law office.

As his life coincidences would have it, he befriended banker George Beley as the two shared an interest in bagpipes, Scottish traditions and the monarchy.

They became interested in heraldry – creating several Coats of Arms – and their push for Brockville to acquire its own Coat of Arms and its own flag, led them to eventually form the Heraldry Society of Canada in 1966.

When he became interested in politics and was convinced to run for the Liberals in Conservative Leeds in 1961 – an election which he won – he was on his way to meet his historic destiny.

Sitting first in Opposition he became Parliamentary Secretary in the minority government of Prime Minister Lester Pearson.

He was recognized by Pearson as the only man who had an understanding of these issues when it was time for Pearson to bring his promise of a new Canadian flag to the House of Commons.

The flag debate and its twists and turns have been written about extensively.

Through it all Mr. Matheson worked diligently to guide the committee to a final conclusion.

He refined the final design, taking a bend out of the leaf’s stem and insisting on the whitest white and the purest red.

He tested the flag in a wind tunnel to ensure that even when flapping in a strong breeze the Maple leaf was easily recognizable.

Oddly enough, Mr. Matheson noted at one time – and I quote –

“This design offended the rules of heraldry, but it focused on the one thing we wanted to emphasize – the Maple Leaf. It was instantly recognized as Canadian.”

In 1967 during Canada’s 100th birthday celebrations and two years after the flag was raised across Canada, John Ross Matheson was recognized as Brockville’s Citizen of the Year.

Today, we are here to make sure that his name is as instantly recognized as his flag. by naming this street after him.

Congratulations to Mr. Matheson and congratulations to the committee for making this happen.

 

Thank you.