RAISING A FLAG, COMPLETING A DREAM
A 60-foot by 30-foot Canadian flag at the foot of Ouellette Avenue and Riverside Drive will rise on a 15-foot flagpole during a formal dedication ceremony on Saturday, May 20 – Windsor’s 125th birthday. Here is the story about the man who came up with the
To paraphrase the long-standing joke, ‘How many people does it take to raise a Canadian flag?’ the answer is: More than you could imagine. And if you were to count them all, you would most likely leave someone out. The Great Canadian Flag Project (GCFP) is more than a fiveyear journey by a handful of proud Canadians, all who desired to see a substantial flag rise over Dieppe Park near the corner of Ouellette and Riverside Drive. It took the efforts of the City of Windsor administration, its elected officials, some dedicated contractors and journeymen, a team of engineers, a slew of volunteers, some generous donors, the backing of the Department of Canada Heritage Canada 150 Fund, the support of the Windsor-Essex Community Foundation -- and the inspiration of one hopeful dreamer, an unsung legend in the annals of local history. Thomas G.M. McDade loved the Canadian flag. As a young man, he attended Parliament Hill on Feb. 15, 1965 and witnessed the raising of the very first Red Maple Leaf flag up above the Peace Tower. The memory remained etched in his heart. A lifelong resident of Montreal, McDade was happy in his hometown until the province sent his world in a spin with restrictive language laws making French the predominant language of commerce. It cost the Englishspeaking McDade his job.
In 1979, he uprooted his family from the comfort of the life they knew and moved to Windsor.
McDade quickly embraced his new home and the beauty and potential of the riverfront that he admired. He envisioned the need for a large Canadian flag on a 100foot flagpole.
In 1980, he embarked on his one-man crusade to bring life to his idea. Regrettably, he encountered objections, a lack of financial support and the absence of political will.
The dream dissipated. Ten years later, Thomas G.M. McDade passed away.
By the time the Great Canadian Flag Project took root, there had been a lot of people who had been tossing around the idea of a large flag on the riverfront. Thomas McDade’s passion was largely forgotten until the current team — Ann Arquette, Mary Baruth, Dave Woodall, Lisa Kolody and myself —began to piece together stories they had heard about McDade.
The team reached out and connected with Tom’s widow, Fay McDade-Smith, and daughter Karen. The more we learned, the greater was our desire to give life to his legend and to see his dream become a reality.
Through serendipity and sheer good fortune, GCFP represents the culmination of McDade’s vision.
In his presentation to City Council in June 1980 Thomas McDade closed his passionate remarks by quoting Prime Minister Lester B. “Mike” Pearson on the occasion of the Inaugural Raising of the Canadian Flag in 1965:
“May the land over which this new flag lies remain united in freedom and justice; a land of decent God-fearing people; fair and generous in all its dealings; sensitive, tolerant and compassionate towards all men; industrious, energetic, resolute; wise and just in the giving of security and opportunity equally to all its cultures, and strong in its adherence to those moral principles which are the only sure guide to greatness.”
More than 50 years later, we raise our own flag, we remember the late Thomas G. M. McDade and we embrace the noble words of our late Prime Minister Pearson as we continue together to pursue our collective and brilliant National Dream.
O Canada …. Our Canada.
Marty Gervais is the city of Windsor’s poet laureate. He will be reading this poem at the dedication of the Great Canadian Flag dedication service at Dieppe Gardens Saturday, May 20 at 10:45 a.m, following the annual Mayor’s Walk.
Thomas McDade, who came up with the idea of a giant flag on Windsor’s waterfront, is shown with his son Shane in this undated photograph. Both Thomas and Shane have since died.
Peter Hrastovec, chair of the Great Canadian Flag Project, is shown at the foot of Ouellette Avenue at Dieppe Park in January prior to the installation of a 150-foot flagpole.