Articles by author: Brock University

  • Canadians becoming ‘flag-phobic’ in wake of freedom movement, says Brock expert

    MEDIA RELEASE: 27 June 2022 – R0073

    Though they’ve never been known for their flag-waving patriotism, many Canadians have taken yet another step back from the national symbol after its recent affiliation with the ongoing freedom movement, says Derek Foster.

    “I’ve heard many people lament this shift in attitude toward the flag,” says the Associate Professor in Brock University’s Department of Communication, Popular Culture and Film. “But I think we have to be careful.”

    Foster says people should consider context when they encounter the iconic red and white flag, before making any assumptions of its intended significance.

    On his regular commute, he passes by a property that each year puts out multiple stylized maple leaf banners in recognition of Canada Day — and this year is no exception.

    “Clearly, this is not meant to signify their connection with freedom protests,” he says, adding there’s a similar sentiment around flags flown at commercial centres and public institutions. “Meanwhile, if I see a vehicle with a full-sized Canadian flag flying from it, I am pretty confident this is someone declaring their solidarity with the freedom convoy and larger movement.”

    Traditionally, Canadians have been seen as more reserved than their American counterparts when it comes to using flags to express their patriotism. The use of flags in the recent freedom movement has created further hesitation among the masses, Foster says.

    “Aside from the exception of Canada Day, Canadians often only fly flags associated with countries competing in worldwide soccer competitions,” he says. “Now, some are flag-phobic.”

    Canadians are “far more comfortable with forms of banal nationalism,” that see, for instance, clothing from Hudson’s Bay Company or Roots, advertising from Canadian Tire and cups from Tim Hortons reminding them daily of the maple leaf’s prominence and subtly contributing to a collective identity, Foster says.

    Canada existed for nearly 100 years without an official flag, with the current design adopted in 1965 after significant debate.

    “It makes sense that it’s still open for interpretation,” Foster says. “And, given its strong graphical design, that it is often appropriated for different causes.”

    The maple leaf has been replaced many times over, for example, with a marijuana leaf at protests supporting the legalization of cannabis or a Toronto Raptors logo when the sole Canadian NBA basketball team contended for the championship. There’s also a widely circulated Indigenous version of the flag with swimming salmon on the sides and an orca inside the maple leaf.

    “As a symbol, the flag doesn’t simply exist; it changes with people’s understandings and uses of it,” Foster says. “Symbols get updated, they elude fixed understandings and transform over time, sometimes even withering and dying.”

    Flags become powerful symbolic vehicles depending on when and how they’re displayed, not simply based on their content, he says. For example, flags raised at schools or city halls to demonstrate support for causes or those flown at half-mast to indicate solidarity, support and to acknowledge loss.

    “What we’ve seen is a collapse of the flag as a symbol of national pride and national identity into a nationalistic symbol, and this is a relatively unfamiliar tradition in Canada,” Foster says. “We’re far more used to asking what makes Canada great or proud, or even asking what defines us as a country, rather than assuming or boldly announcing such things.”

    Canada, he says, is on a constant search for a complete, unifying and strong identity.

    “Perhaps that is why the flag has been taken up by the freedom movement with such vigour; if we are a patchwork quilt rather than a melting pot, the flag seems to cover up all our stitches,” he says. “Acting almost as a safety blanket, it smooths over open wounds and questions of who we are and what we stand for that actually define who we are, as a people and a country.”

    Derek Foster, Associate Professor in Brock University’s Department of Communication, Popular Culture and Film, is available for media interviews on the topic.

    For more information or for assistance arranging interviews: 

    * Doug Hunt, Communications and Media Relations Specialist, Brock University dhunt2@brocku.ca or 905-941-6209

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    Categories: Media releases

  • New strategy needed for pro-choice Americans following Roe v Wade decision: Brock expert

    MEDIA RELEASE: 24 June 2022 – R0072

    The United States Supreme Court decision Friday overturning Roe v Wade rests on the assumption that women’s lives are subject to the authority of others: husbands, fathers, the church and the state, says Tami Friedman, Brock University Associate Professor of History.

    Roe v Wade has been under attack since its inception, both through legal and political methods and violent, even murderous, attacks on clinics, doctors, staff and patients,” she says.

    That Roe v Wade, established in 1973, lasted as long as it did is a testament to the power of a social movement that insisted women would not live in a society in which compulsory motherhood was their only life choice, Friedman says. Girls, women and their allies successfully asserted women’s right to participate fully in society on a basis of equality between the sexes.

    Anti-abortion forces have made it extraordinarily difficult for poor women, particularly poor women of colour, in the U.S. to exercise control over their own lives, Friedman says. Now, all Americans needing abortion care will experience that lack of control, except for those with resources to travel to places where abortion remains legal.

    “Pro-choice Americans will now have to turn their attention to other ways to allow women to control their lives — raising money to facilitate travel across state and national borders, getting access to abortion medication, teaching themselves to perform abortions safely and on a wide scale,” says Friedman.

    Women and allies such as the Chicago-based JANE Collective have done this before, and Friedman says they will do it again.

    “Generations ago, the great labour leader Mary Harris ‘Mother’ Jones exhorted workers with, ‘Don’t mourn, organize!’” says Friedman. “There’s a lot of mourning going on, understandably, but organizing is what we need.”

    Brock University Associate Professor of History Tami Friedman is available for media interviews on the topic.For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

    * Matt Terry, Executive Director, Marketing, Brand and Communications, Brock University, mterry@brocku.ca or 289-929-7024 

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    Categories: Media releases