Blue, black and white flies high at City Hall
Archived Articles 29 Feb 2008 Roland CampbellEWR
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To a curious onlooker or an observant passerby this ceremony might have seemed typical or even bland and customary. Perhaps they might have taken notice of a foreign flag, questioned its origin briefly, only to continue on to something else on their train of thought.

In fact the opposite is true. The ceremony resulting with Estonia’s tri-colour flag rippling high in the wind represents and holds much more meaning than the mundane normalcy that most ceremonies of this nature carry.

This past Saturday, the 23rd of February, a day before the 90th anniversary of Estonian sovereignty, the annual raising of the Estonian flag took place at Toronto City Hall. Scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. the ceremony began fashionably late, but time was not of the essence on this occasion. If anything, more time was needed to reflect on and ponder the ceremony’s symbolic significance.

The event began with a short speech from Avo Kittask, President of the Estonian Central Council in Canada, who thanked the Toronto City Council for providing the opportunity to hold the event. He stressed the fact that while Estonia was occupied the nation’s flag was raised annually at Toronto City Hall to mark Estonian Independence Day, and that the tradition must be continued in firm defiance of groups who persist in objecting to the independence regained in 1991.

Laas Leivat, Honourary Consul General of Estonia, was next to speak, making mention of the flag’s symbolic representation to Estonia’s freedom. He noted the Toronto City Council’s attempt to end the practice of ethnic flag-raising at City Hall, this in reaction to conflicts between the Greeks and the Macedonians. Luckily the attempt failed.

With last words spoken and the flag-raisers, guests from Estonia Toomas Rull and Anna Põldvee in place, the flag began its ascent up the pole, accompanied in full force by the Estonian anthem trumpeting over the loudspeakers. Attendees took liberty to snap as many memorable photos as they could while singing along.

When it reached the top of the pole the flag had a majestic air about it, as it moved prominently in the wind against the backdrop of Toronto’s quaint Old City Hall for all those all around to see.
Almost as quickly as it started the ceremony was completed, long enough to remind us of the privilege of freedom, short enough to remind us not to take it for granted.

The importance of this tradition should not be lost. Avo Kittask believes it is a way of making Canadians not of Estonian heritage more aware of Canada’s multiculturalism, which is enriched by expatriate communities and makes up the “fabric of the Canadian multicultural cloth.”

The significance of this symbolic tradition championing an independent Estonia is one that was of the utmost importance during occupation and “reinstates the fact that we (Estonia) are an independent country with the rights of any independent country in the world.”
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