Father of Canadian flag dies

Credits: Al Charest/Calgary Sun/QMI Agency


John Matheson in May 2010. (File/Michael Lea/The Whig-Standard/QMI AGENCY)

The father of the Canadian flag has died.

John Ross Matheson died in Kingston late Friday morning. He was 96.

Matheson's cousin and former MP and speaker Peter Milliken confirmed his death to QMI Agency.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper also acknowledged Matheson's death on Twitter Sunday evening.

"Canada has lost a great public servant," Harper said. "John R. Matheson played key roles in both the creation of the (Canadian) flag and the Order of Canada."

After service in the Second World War, where he was seriously wounded in battle, Matheson entered public life. He was a lawyer in Brockville, Ont., when he was elected MP for Leeds in 1962 to Lester B. Pearson's Liberal government. Although he was a rookie MP, Matheson was a logical choice to help create a new Canadian flag because he was fascinated with heraldry, having already designed a coat of arms for the City of Brockville.

When Pearson formed a minority government in 1963, he asked Matheson to chair an all-party flag committee but Matheson said he was already working on a design and was too busy.

His design was approved by the committee in October 1964 and the new flag first flew over Parliament Hill on February 15, 1965.

"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," Matheson said in an interview in June.

Asked how he felt the day it was first raised, he said, "Damn proud. Every time I see that flag, I feel damn proud."

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