In a recent opinion column in the Victoria Times-Colonist, retired UVic professor Trevor Hancock suggests changing the spelling of Canada to the indigenous ‘Kanata’, and adoption of a version of our country’s maple leaf flag decorated with indigenous artwork.
I find his proposals provocative and surprising when one considers how very appropriate both our country’s name and its flag are in the present context.
According to Jacques Cartier, the 16th century French explorer, the term ‘kanata’ meant village and he applied it, using easily pronounced European spelling, to what he understood to be a country made up of many villages. The name stuck.
It was an Iroquois word and Cartier, in accepting an indigenous term, perhaps anticipated one day the need for some common ground as the basis for discussion of the country’s future. The spelling appears both in Cartier’s writings and on a map dating from 1565.
Canada’s maple leaf flag, adopted by parliament in 1965 after much national debate, is a perfect reflection of the vital importance of the natural world in the lives of all its inhabitants. This theme underpins so much of indigenous life and art, it is difficult to suppose anyone might disagree.
There are many bases on which reconciliation might be built, but proposing alterations to two of our most important national symbols, already remarkably well chosen, seems more mischievous than constructive. But then, perhaps that was Professor Hancock’s intention in the first place.