Montreal Gazette: Maple Leaf Tartan made official symbol of Canada

I like the Maple Leaf Tartan kilt….

It was the first polyviscous kilt I had made, with each of the colours of the maple leaf interwoven in green, golden yellow and red.  I would wear it on Canada Day, and to the Order of Canada luncheons organized by the Canadian Club Vancouver.

Now… the Canadian Government… has made the unofficial symbol of Canada into an official symbol of Canada.  Last year they recognized Tartan Day, to help celebrate Scottish heritage in Canada – this year they recognize the Maple Leaf tartan as an official symbol of Canada.

Read the Montreal Gazette story below. 

Maple Leaf Tartan made official symbol of
Canada

The Maple Leaf Tartan, inspired by the shifting hues of autumn 
leaves, was announced Wednesday to have become Canada's national tartan 
and also an “official symbol” of the nation itself.
 

The
Maple Leaf Tartan, inspired by the shifting hues of autumn leaves, was
announced Wednesday to have become Canada's national tartan and also an
“official symbol” of the nation itself.

Photograph
by:
Julie Oliver, Ottawa Citizen

The Canadian government has pre-empted a Liberal senator's
crusade to have Maple Leaf Tartan declared the country's official
Scottish cloth, announcing Wednesday that the distinctive green-and-red
pattern — inspired by the shifting hues of autumn leaves — has not only
been made the national tartan but also an “official symbol” of the
nation itself.

The designation means the tartan — designed
in 1964 by Toronto garment maker David Weiser ahead of Canada's
centennial celebrations — will join the flag, the coat of arms, the
beaver and a handful of other objects as state-sanctioned emblems of
Canada, according to a statement issued by Heritage Minister James
Moore.

“The Maple Leaf Tartan has been worn proudly and
enjoyed by Canadians for decades, but has never been elevated to the
level of an official symbol — until now,” said Moore. “Our national
symbols express our identity and define our history. The Maple Leaf
Tartan represents the contributions that the more than four million
Canadians of Scottish heritage continue to make to our country.”

The
Conservative government's declaration comes less than a week after
Liberal Senator Elizabeth Hubley, of P.E.I., gave a speech urging
support for her proposed legislation, Bill S-226, to make Maple Leaf
Tartan the official national tartan.

“The Maple Leaf Tartan
has been Canada's unofficial national tartan for many years,” she said
last Thursday. “It is time to recognize the rich contribution Canadians
of Scottish descent have made to this country by adopting a national
tartan for Canada, which can be worn by every Canadian, regardless of
their ancestry, as a symbol of national pride.”

Hubley's
office initially expressed “shock” at Wednesday's announcement. And in
comments to Postmedia News following the government's statement, Hubley
pointed to “eerie similarities” between Moore's declaration and her own
expressions of support for the Maple Leaf Tartan last week in the
Senate.

“I am pleased the government has been listening,”
she said. “And if you read the wording of the press release, there are
eerie similarities to my second-reading speech from last Thursday.”

She
also raised doubts about whether a simple announcement from the
government had the weight of legislation — duly passed by Parliament —
to declare the Maple Leaf Tartan an official emblem of Canada. “A press
release from a cabinet minister is not sufficient to create a national
symbol.”

Wednesday's announcement by the government made no
mention of Hubley's bill, but included comments from Conservative
Senator John Wallace, of New Brunswick, who recently spearheaded an
effort to have the government formally recognize April 6 as National
Tartan Day.

“The tartan is one of the most visual
expressions of Scottish heritage and culture,” Wallace said in
Wednesday's statement. “Making the Maple Leaf Tartan an official symbol
of Canada highlights the many significant contributions that people of
Scottish heritage have made to the founding of Canada.”

While
the Maple Leaf Tartan appears to have become an unexpected symbol of
political partisanship, both the Liberals and Conservatives do have
legitimate prior claims to being champions of the patriotic plaid.

In
2006, former Liberal MP John Matheson — a key player in the political
battle that led to the adoption of Canada's Maple Leaf flag in 1965 —
urged that the government adopt a national tartan as a readily
recognized “signal” to be displayed by Canadians of all ethnic stripes
to show that they “care about a united Canada.”

In 2008,
Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney (who has since added immigration
to his cabinet portfolio) announced that he had officially registered
the Maple Leaf Tartan with the Scottish Tartan Authority in Edinburgh to
secure exclusive rights for the pattern for the Canadian government.

“The
Government of Canada recognizes the many ways in which Scottish culture
and tradition have contributed to the strength of our communities,”
Kenney said at the time. “Scottish tartans are a wonderful symbol of
cohesion: each plaid, with its blend of different colours and patterns
represents a family, a region, an organization, or a nation.”

In
2006, after Matheson had launched his campaign for a national tartan,
the Globe and Mail reported that documents released under Access to
Information showed federal Heritage officials were giving the proposal
serious consideration.

One memo noted that Weiser's Maple
Leaf Tartan had been “greeted with wide acclaim” in the 1960s and was
already considered an unofficial national tartan by many Canadians.

Briefing
notes indicated that “the use of tartan by non-Scottish or Celtic
peoples has dramatically expanded around the world” and reflected a
“more multicultural reality.”

But the documents also
contained a caution that “the notion of a national tartan might have
little resonance with Canada's multicultural communities, given its
traditional association with Scottish and British heritage.”

According
to the website of Canadian Heritage, 11 of the 13 provinces and
territories have their own official tartans, while Quebec has popular
design that is widely — though unofficially — used to symbolize the
province. Nunavut is not mentioned on the site.

The
Canadian government also recognizes the maple tree as the country's
“national arboreal emblem,” the beaver as its official animal symbol and
red and white as Canada's official colours.

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