Community Opinion

Upside Down Under

Maple Leaf invasion?…..

If you drive just about anywhere in North Dakota you’ll see flags of various nations from time to time most often to indicate ancestry, but sometimes it’s academic or for business.

By Marvin Baker

Over the years flags from England, France, Mexico, Germany and the Netherlands, and all five Scandinavian flags have flown on North Dakota soil. Iceland, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway flags fly daily over the Scandinavian Heritage Park in Minot, while the Icelandic flag is prominent in the Pembina County community of Mountain. The Dutch flag has flown at Cavendish Farms in Jamestown. You’ll sometimes see the Ukrainian flag north of Dickinson and the Mexican flag flies alongside the U.S. flag at the Geographical Center of North America in Rugby.

But so does the Canadian flag. In fact, in all major cities you go, you’ll see the red and white Maple Leaf flag flying with the U.S. flag. Two of the most obvious places are the hotels in Minot and Grand Forks. They fly the red and white because they want Canadians to know they are welcome. The Canadian flag flies at the North Dakota State Fair, is on display in the Bismarck Civic Center, the Ralph Englestad Arena in Grand Forks, Dakota Spirit Arena in Langdon, at Valley City State University and at the truck stop in Bowman.

Those are just recent sightings. In the past five years, there have been more than 300 places flying the Canadian flag in North Dakota. That includes a number of private residences and farms. Is it flown so frequently because we are neighbors and North Dakotans are showing good will? Do we fly it because we want the loonie to be a prominent currency? Do we just like that particular flag or are we trying to make some other kind of statement or all of the above?

Whatever it is, the Canadian flag is very obvious across the North Dakota prairie. However, there may be some issues. As an example, whenever a flag of a foreign nation is flown, international protocol calls for said flag to fly at equal height and always to the right of the U.S. flag. It doesn’t matter if it’s Canada or Ethiopia, that’s protocol. What we’ll see, however, is the U.S. flag almost always at a higher position with the Canadian and North Dakota flags at equal heights below the U.S. flag. Sometimes the Canadian flag is flown below the North Dakota flag.

It would be interesting to note how many people actually think about the Canadian flag in so many locations, from restaurants to doctor’s offices to retail stores. The question comes up because it’s all over and maybe most of us see it so often we no longer think about its presence.

One thing is certain, you won’t see the Canadian flag flying in other border states as much as you’ll see it here. Oh, you’ll see it in places like Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.; International Falls, Warroad and Roseau, Minn.; Plentywood, Shelby and Great Falls, Mont.; and Everett and Seattle, Wash. You’ll also see it in other communities near the border like Niagara Falls, Detroit, Buffalo and Burlington, Vt., but when you get miles away from the border, it fades like late-morning fog. It’s just something that’s always been here, at least since the Maple Leaf replaced the dominion flag in 1965.

There is so much cross-border commerce and visitations, North Dakota could just as well be a Canadian province, socially and economically. Before credit cards were used to purchase everything, the Canadian dollar, tracked at historic highs, had a value in North Dakota that rivaled the gross domestic product of either of the two provinces or territory; Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island or Nunavut. There are hundreds of Canadian athletes in North Dakota, as well as doctors, farmers, salesmen, spouses, service industry workers and even TV personalities.

North Dakota is so intertwined with Canadian culture, especially Manitoba and Saskatchewan, we’d be out of touch if we didn’t fly the Maple Leaf.

On the other side of the border, there are numerous places in the three prairie provinces where you will see the U.S. flag flying. And, just like in Minot and Grand Forks, it’s most prominent in hotel parking lots. It’s a good feeling driving into Winnipeg or Regina and seeing the U.S. flag. I suspect the opposite is true as well.

We don’t fly the Mexican flag. We don’t fly the Japanese flag, nor do we fly the Liberia, Greece or Argentine flag. We fly the Canadian flag because it still symbolizes what the two nations have together; and it symbolizes the trust we have for our prairie neighbors.



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