Guidelines on how to fly the Canadian flag

There are no rules or laws but “dos” and “don’ts” regarding the maple leaf

As Canada Day and the country’s 150th anniversary approaches, flag sales are likely to grow as more and more people want to put up a pole.

There are, however, “rules” about flying the Canadian flag some of which are so nuanced few Canadians could know them all. They aren’t laws, more like ethical guidelines from Heritage Canada.

“The National Flag of Canada should be displayed only in a manner befitting this important national symbol; it should not be subjected to indignity or displayed in a position inferior to any other flag or ensign,” according to Heritage Canada.

There is nothing illegal about flying a damaged flag or even burning a flag for that matter, but Heritage Canada has a strict list of “shoulds” when it comes to the maple leaf.

A few points many may have not considered: the National Flag of Canada should not be used as table cloth or a seat cover; while it is not technically incorrect to use the flag to cover a statue, monument or plaque for an unveiling ceremony, it should be discouraged; nothing should be pinned to or sewn on the flag; and the flag should not be signed or marked in any way.

At Chilliwack city hall, the Canadian flag flies on the middle pole of three, in its correct position above the British Columbia flag, which is to the left and the City of Chilliwack flag to the right.

This follows protocol, which says three flags on the same base should have the National Flag at the centre, the second-ranking flag to the left and the other to the right.

The Holland Shopping Centre on Young, similarly has three flags flying, the National Flag and two flags of the Netherlands. Heritage Canada says when the National Flag is flown with that of other sovereign nations they should be at the same height, but Canada’s should be in the “position of honour,” which is the middle. The Holland Shopping Centre got it right.

Interestingly, in terms of precedence, if the Flag of Canada is flown with that of all the province and territories, B.C.’s flag should be in the seventh position based on the order of entering Confederation.

Another common practice around Canada’s 150th will be plastic flags affixed to cars and trucks. But don’t put it on the left.

“The flag must be on a pole firmly fixed to the chassis on the front right,” Heritage Canada says about flags on motor vehicles.

So what about a damaged flag? Again, there is no law against it, but Heritage Canada says: “When a flag becomes tattered and is no longer in a suitable condition for use, it should be destroyed in a dignified way.”


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