How to fly the Canadian flag with respect and dignity

There are no laws on how to present the red-and-white but Heritage Canada does have guidelines

As Canada Day approaches, the maple leaf banner is increasingly flown and displayed in various forms all over the country.

The flag is an important symbol for most of us, and while there are many proud displays around Chilliwack, at times one sees a display of a flag in disrepair. And it does look disrespectful.

Over recent weeks, one particular Canadian flag at a building at Five Corners was particularly bad, tattered to a shredded remnant, twittering desperately in the wind.

I found one similar in 2014 in the lead-up to the Winter Olympics, and wrote something similar to this, a look at flag-flying etiquette.

There are rules about flying the Canadian flag, some of which are so nuanced I dare say few Canadians could know them all. I say rules, but they aren’t strict and certainly aren’t laws, more like ethical guidelines from Heritage Canada.

I frequently attend the Chilliwack Law Courts and my preferred parking spot is right beside this dismal flag just across from the Five Corners clock. With my flag vigilante hat (back) on, I went looking for flag flying violators with a four-year update.

The massive Canadian flag often at the Luckakuck Husky proudly out in the wind.

Both Royal Canadian Legion branches in Chilliwack have great flags up, as does the drill hall and the Chilliwack Museum.

So what are the “rules”?

“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 to consider: 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 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 Chilliwack flag to the right. Same at Evergreen Hall.

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.

And not to pick on anyone, but across from our office is the Coast Hotel where three flags are flying. While they almost got it right, the B.C. flag is to the right while the Coast Hotel flag is to the left, a protocol violation. (Unless of course you are looking at the flags from inside hotel windows. So sometimes, maybe it’s just a matter of perspective.)

Superstore, too, has a large and majestic Canadian flag but it also has an equivalent sized B.C. flag … but it’s to the right.

Neither businesses should feel too bad as the Chilliwack Law Courts similarly has a Canada flag and a B.C. flag, the latter also incorrectly to the right.

As for international flags, four years ago, the Holland Shopping Centre on Young Road had three flags flying, the Canadian 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. So the Holland Shopping Centre had it right in 2014. But now that there is only one Dutch flag flying, it is to the right when it should be to the left.

There is a private home on Yale Road near Little Mountain with three flags on the lawn: Canada, the Netherlands and B.C. And they are positioned correctly with the Dutch flag to the left, the correct place for another sovereign nation in the second order of precedence.

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 during international events like the Olympics or around Canada Day is people putting plastic flags on vehicles. The one car with a flag I spotted had its flag on the left side, which is wrong.

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

(As for hanging U.S. Confederate Flags in the back window of pickup trucks. No comment.)

So what about a damaged Canadian 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.”

As I was pondering this subject for Canada Day, and as I attended the courthouse on Monday, I parked where I usually park and crossed the street. There, under the awning on the sidewalk, curled up amid the ubiquitous pigeon droppings was that tattered Canadian flag not having survived the recent wind and rain.

At least that disrespectful remnant was off that pole before Canada Day.

New tenants are apparently moving in to that long-empty building, so here’s hoping they fly something crisp and fresh and red and white when they move in.

Fly the flag proudly everyone.

Happy Canada Day.


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