Woman recounts night she sewed Canada's first Maple Leaf flag
Josh Dehaas, CTV News
Published Friday, May 29, 2015 8:45PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, May 29, 2015 11:26PM EDT
An Ontario woman was honoured Friday for a secret mission she carried out for Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson in 1964.
Joan O’Malley was a 20-year-old amateur seamstress on Nov. 6, 1964, when her civil servant father came home from work and asked if she would turn three potential designs for the new Canadian flag into prototypes for Pearson.
“They were wrapped in brown paper. My dad took them down to 24 Sussex at maybe 12:30 or 1 in the morning,” O’Malley recalled at a post office in St. Jacobs, Ont., where a new $5 stamp was unveiled.
The new stamp is the first to be made of fabric. It commemorates 50 years since the first raising of Canada’s Maple Leaf flag on Parliament Hill on Feb. 15, 1965.
The flag raised that day was not without controversy -- hence the need for O’Malley to sew three different designs.
It happened like this. Pearson announced in May 1964 that he intended to give Canada its own flag, but veterans were outraged. They had fought under the Red Ensign, which was dominated by the British Union Jack.
When Pearson unveiled his planned flag -- a white and blue three-leaf design that came to be known as the ‘Pearson Pennant’ -- opposition leader John Diefenbaker wrapped himself in the Red Ensign and mounted a filibuster.
That forced Pearson to put the issue to a parliamentary committee, which whittled the options down to three choices: Pearson’s Pennant, a variation on the Red Ensign, and a streamlined Maple Leaf design from historian George Stanley.
The committee eventually put two designs forward for Parliament to choose between, and both parties voted on Dec. 15, 1964 in favour of Stanley’s design.
O’Malley said her favourite of the three flags was the one that ended up winning.
“People say, ‘Did you get paid?’ I say, ‘No, it’s a gift I gave to my country.’”
With a report from CTV Kitchener