Garth Turner helped raise $1 million to organize a special audio recording of Canadian artists singing "O Canada" commemorating the nation's 125th birthday. CDs of the song were sent to schools across the country.
Turner, who as an Ontario MP at the time, was later presented the Canadian flag that flew on the Peace Tower in Ottawa on July 1, 1992 as a thank-you for the patriotic project.
Wherever his travels have taken him, Turner's Peace Tower flag has adorned many facades during a three of four-day period around the Canada Day holiday. In recent years, the landing spot has been his King Street building in Lunenburg.
However, sometime between 10 p.m. on June 30 and 7 a.m. on July 1, the flag, measuring 12 metres wide and five-and-a-half-metres tall, disappeared from the building. RCMP were notified and, days later, the Mounties made a plea online for the public's help as to the whereabouts of the stolen item that has deep meaning for Turner.
"It was a big blow; it was a big loss to me and I was very disheartened," lamented the former MP when reached by phone by LighthouseNOW, referring to the flag as memorable, personal and historic. "It's Canada Day. If I want to put up flag, I put a flag up. So I did, so somebody took it," said Turner, who is now a financial advisor.
Before the flag went missing, there were threats about its presence and demands for its removal. Turner suspects the people behind those gestures made off with his prized possession.
The tragic legacy of Canada's residential school system and its heartbreaking impacts on Indigenous peoples was prominent in the minds of citizens who reflected differently during this year's Canada Day.
"I know to people who are protesting on behalf of the Indigenous community that it is a symbol of something they didn't like," Turner said of the flag. "But, to me, it was a piece of my life and I really regret that it's gone."
This year marked the fourth time the Peace Tower flag made it onto his property in Old Town Lunenburg. In his online blog, Turner said the cords holding the flag in place were severed and "bits" of it remained overhead "where it had been ripped off the mounting screws."
Turner told LighthouseNOW he never imagined a "radical movement" similar to the ones "toppling statues, burning churches, stealing things" would exist in Lunenburg and be encouraging him not to display the nation's flag. Turner said he is proud of his country and finds nothing objectionable about showing the symbol. "How is that possibly a bad thing?" he told LighthouseNOW, "and if it is a bad thing, our country is in trouble."
Before the theft, Turner planned to pay out-of-pocket for a Canada Day street party and applied to the town for a special event permit but "logistics," he said, led to his withdrawing the paperwork.