Canadian Flag Fashioner, John Ross Matheson, Passes Away

News about the death of ‘father of Canadian flag,’ John Ross Matheson, was confirmed by his cousin, former MP and speaker Peter Milliken. Later acknowledging that news, Prime Minister Stephen Harper mentioned in a post on Twitter on Sunday evening that “Canada has lost a great public servant.” He added that “John R. Matheson played key roles in both the creation of the (Canadian) flag and the Order of Canada.”

Matheson was seriously wounded in the Second World War, after which he decided to enter public life. A lawyer in Brockville, Ont., he was elected as MP for Leeds in 1962 to Lester B. Pearson’s Liberal government. Despite being a newbie Member of Parliament, Matheson was a logical choice to fashion a new Canadian flag due to his fascination with heraldry, and experience of having had designed a coat of arms for the City of Brockville. During Pearson’s minority government in 1963, he tasked Matheson to chair an all-party flag committee but Matheson had already started working on a design and was too busy. Consequently, his design was approved by the committee in October 1964, after which the new flag first flew over Parliament Hill on February 15, 1965.

During an interview in June, Matheson alleged that “it was basic heraldry. White and red is considered the most powerful combination in heraldry. That’s why the Canadian flag has the brightest red. And the starkest white. It had to be that way.” Upon inquiry about if he felt proud at the time, he replied “Damn proud. Every time I see that flag, I feel damn proud.”

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