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  • Ron Davidson

The Dignity of the Flag

Government of Canada

The National Flag of Canada should be displayed only in a manner appropriate for this important national symbol. It should not be subjected to dishonour or displayed in a position inferior to any other flag or ensign.

The National Flag always takes priority over all other national flags, when flown on Canadian soil. The only flags to which precedence is given over the National Flag are the Queen’s Personal Canadian Flag, the Governor General’s Flag, the Flags of the Lieutenant Governors (within their province) and the Personal Canadian Flags of the other members of the Royal Family, as we are still part of the British Commonwealth. The National Flag of Canada should always be flown on its own mast or flag pole; flag protocol states it is improper to fly two or more flags on the same mast or flag pole (for example, one beneath the other).

When the National Flag of Canada is raised, lowered or carried in a parade or review, everyone present should face the Flag, remain silent, and remove their hats. Those in uniform should salute.

The National Flag of Canada, whether it be cloth, paper or made of some other fabric or material, should never:

Be used as a tablecloth or seat cover; Be used as a masking for boxes, covering a speaker’s podium, draping a platform, as a barrier on a stage or platform, or in general for any decoration; Be used to cover a statue, monument or plaque for an unveiling ceremony; Have anything pinned to or sewn onto it; Be signed or marked in any way (A border could be attached to its outside edge, which can be marked while leaving the Flag itself untouched.); Be used as wearing apparel; Be flown in a discoloured or tattered condition; Be burned in effigy; Touch the ground; Be stepped on; Be flown upside down (except as a signal of distress in instances of extreme danger to life); or Be dipped or lowered to the ground as a means of paying a salute or compliment to any person or thing.

Displaying the Flag The National Flag is flown at all federal government buildings, airports, and military bases and establishments within and outside Canada. It may be flown by night as well as by day.

The National Flag of Canada may be displayed as follows: Flat against a surface, horizontally and vertically; If hung horizontally, the upper part of the leaf (the points of the leaf) should be up and the stem down. If hung vertically, the Flag should be placed so the upper part of the leaf points to the left and the stem to the right from the point of view of the observer facing the Flag. Flags hung vertically should be hung so the canton () is in the upper left corner.

On a flagpole or mast The top left (first) quarter or canton should be placed in the position nearest the top of the flagpole or mast. When carried, the Flag should always be respected.

On a flag rope (halyard) The canton should be raised as closely as possible to the top with the flag rope tight.

Suspended vertically in the middle of a street The upper part of the leaf (the points of the leaf) should face north in an east-west street. The upper part of the leaf should face east in a north-south street.

Projected from a building Displayed horizontally or at an angle from a window or balcony, the canton must point outward.

Sharing the same base – three flags When only three flags are displayed, the National Flag of Canada should be at the centre. To an observer facing the display, the second-ranking Flag is placed to the left of the centre and the third-ranking to the right.

Half-masting for mourning Flags are flown at the half-mast position as a sign of mourning.

The Flag is brought to the half-mast position by first raising it to the top of the mast then immediately lowering it slowly to the half-mast position.

The position of the Flag when flying at half-mast will depend on the size of the Flag and the length of the flagstaff. It must be lowered at least to a position recognizably “half-mast,” to avoid the appearance of a flag which has accidentally fallen away from the top of the mast. A good position for half-masting is to place the centre of the Flag exactly halfway down the staff.

On occasions requiring one Flag be flown at half-mast, all flags flown together should also be flown at half-mast. Flags will only be half-masted on those flagpoles fitted with halyards and pulleys. Some buildings fly flags from horizontal or angled poles, without halyards, to which flags are permanently attached. Flags on these shall not be half-masted.

Disposal of flags When a flag becomes tattered and is no longer in a suitable condition for use, it should be destroyed in a dignified way.

A flag is considered to be tattered or worn when the colour has faded, it has developed a hole, or the outermost seam (fly) of the Flag has become frayed. When a flag is no longer in a suitable condition for use, it should be disposed of in a dignified manner.

Disposal of such flags may be handled in the following manner: Return flag(s) to participating retail stores who will dispose of them; Flags made of natural fibres (wool, cotton, linen) should be burned in a dignified manner; privately without ceremony or public attention being drawn to the destruction of the material; Flags made of synthetic material (nylon or polyester) should be respectfully torn into strips. This way each element of the Flag is reduced to a single colour so the remaining pieces do not resemble a flag. The individual pieces should then be placed in a bag for disposal – the shreds of fabric should not be re-used or fashioned into anything.

Common Respect If you, as a citizen, should observe our national, provincial or even municipal/organizational flag being displayed in any of the improper manners described above, you can notify your municipal office and they will be able to contact the individual involved, to instruct them in one of the manners appropriate, described in this article.

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