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REFORM PARTY DROPS ATTEMPT TO WIELD FLAGS IN PARLIAMENT

Canada's right-wing Reform Party surrendered last week after its effort to use the Canadian flag as a symbolic weapon against Quebec's separatists in Parliament was denounced by the speaker of the Canadian Parliament.

For three weeks, members of the Reform Party argued they had a patriotic right to put flags on their desks, despite a rule against bringing "props" into Parliament.

"This ruling is not about the flag. It's not about the national anthem. It's not about patriotism. It's not about the rights of one political faction over another," Speaker Gib Parent declared on March. 16. "The basic principles at issue here are order and decorum and the duty of the speaker to apply to rules and practices of this House."

After Parent's ruling that Reform Party members were "out of order" when they interrupted a separatist politician by singing "O Canada" and waving tiny flags, Parliament voted down a Reform motion to change the rules and allow the flags.

The flag war unfurled last month when Suzanne Tremblay, a member of Parliament for the separatist Bloc Quebecois returned from the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, complaining there were too many Canadian flags at the Canadian athletes village.

The next time she rose to speak in Parliament, members of the Reform Party and a handful of other politicians waved flags and sang the national anthem.

After a six-hour debate, in which members of the ruling Liberal Party and the three other major political parties condemned the Reform Party for attempting to use the flag as a political weapon, Reform Party whip Chuck Strahl admitted defeat.

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