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Canadian Modern Maple Leaf Tartan Fabric Swatch

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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 patternåÛå inspired by the shifting hues of autumn leaves âåâ¬åÛå has not only been made the national tartan but also an "official symbol" of the nation itself.

 

The designation means the tartanåÛå 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 âåâ¬åÛå 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 âåâ¬åÛå duly passed by Parliament âåâ¬åÛå 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 âåâ¬åÛå a key player in the political battle that led to the adoption of Canada's Maple Leaf flag in 1965 âåâ¬åÛå 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 available 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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