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This article reprinted by permission from The Suburban (Cote St-Luc edition) 16 July 1997.
Wave of local unity rises as flag campaign sends OLF a message
by John Austen

The efforts of a Pointe-Claire teenager and his friends have resulted in large Canadian flags adorning dozens of rooftops in their city.

Last week, Graham Checkland, 17, stapled an eight foot flag to the roof of his home on Forest Gradens to protest the Office de la Langue Francaise's demands to conform to Quebec's language laws by changing some street signs in a number of West Island communities.

On the advice of a neighbour, Graham began going door-to-door asking residents if they would like to staple Canadian flags to the roofs of their homes.

The teen has received "more than 40 calls" so far, including some from other municipalities, such as Ile Bizard and Hampstead.

"It's nice to see the reaction of the neighbourhood to the teens' efforts," said Jacques Labbe, a Pointe Claire resident who works with the Quebec Committee for Canada. "It's a way of showing that we are proud to be Canadian and it also sends a message to the OLF that they should use their time and energy on ways to bring about jobs instead of negatives -- that is the biggest challenge for the PQ."

The story received national television coverage last week and Graham has received calls from a couple of daily newspapers in Ontario.

The response has been unbelievable, according to Graham, and his flag campaign has since mushroomed to other streets in the neighbourhood.

"We've put up 41 flags so far," he said Monday afternoon. "I've been getting calls from people I don't know asking me and my friends to come over with flags. We're running out."

It was Mr. Labbe who first saw Graham's flag and decided to pay him a visit. "I thought it would be great if Graham and his friends went on a campaign on a street to get other flags put up," said Mr Labbe. "People notice when teenagers show initiative like this."

Sophie Emond from the QCC says she has receieved more than 100 calls in the last two weeks from various parts of Montreal demanding flags, which cost $10 apiece. Proceeds go to the Quebec Committee for Canada.

"People are really showing an interest since the OLF started coming down hard on the municipalities to change their street signs," said Mrs. Emond. "That, combined with the reaction of the teenagers in Pointe Claire, has created a real run on flags.

Graham, along with Mr. Labbe's son Russ McDougall, has been going door-to-doorin the neighbourhood trying to convince federalists to staple the maple leaf to their roofs.

"We've met with some resistance on other streets," Graham said. "Some people are scared to put them up, I call them soft federalists -- but it's their choice."

Jacques Cartier MNA Geoff Kelley applauded the efforts of the teens. "I think it's great," said Mr. Kelley. "It's up to the citizens to give the PQ government a reality check. The OLF is using Draconian measures to go after the municipalities and people are reacting."

Town of Mount Royal mayor Harry Schwartz says what the teens are doing is fine, but he doesn't expect it to have much of an impact.

"I guess it keeps them out of trouble," he said. "It's a nice gesture. I have no problem with what they're doing."

Graham, who sports a maple leaf tattoo on his shoulder, says he's proud to be Canadian and wants to show it.

"I guess you can say I'm the undisputed Captain Canada of Pointe Claire," he said. "I don't mind -- I think it's important to act when you believe in something.

Additional reporting by Marlene Eisner