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Dignity of the Flag

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. The National Flag always takes precedence over all other national flags when flown in Canada. The only flags to which precedence is given over the Canadian flag are the personal standards of members of the Royal Family and of Her Majesty's eleven representatives in Canada.

The National Flag of Canada should always be flown on its own mast - flag protocol dictating that it is improper to fly two or more flags on the same mast (eg. one beneath the other). Further, the following points should be kept in mind:

  • The National Flag of Canada should not be used as table/seat cover, as a masking for boxes or as a barrier on a dais or platform.
  • While it is not technically incorrect to use the National Flag of Canada to cover a statue, monument or plaque for an unveiling ceremony, it is not common practice to do so and should be discouraged.
  • Nothing should be pinned to or sewn on the National Flag of Canada.
  • The National Flag of Canada should not be signed or marked in any way (A border could be attached to the outside edge of the Flag on which it would be acceptable to have signatures leaving the Flag itself untouched).

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

Order of Precedence

Position of honour

Due consideration should be given to flag etiquette and precedence whenever the National Flag of Canada or other sovereign national flags or provincial/territorial flags are displayed.

The location of the position of honour depends on the number of flags flown and the chosen configuration. When two flags (or more than three flags) are displayed, the position of honour is furthest to the left (to an observer facing the display). When three flags are flown, the position of honour is in the center.

Precedence

The order of precedence for flags is:

  1. The National Flag of Canada*
  2. The flags of other sovereign nations in alphabetical order
  3. The flags of the provinces of Canada in the order in which they joined Confederation**
  4. The flags of the territories of Canada in the order in which they joined Confederation** 
  5. The flags of municipalities/cities
  6. Banners of organizations

* Her Majesty's Personal Canadian Flag, the standards of members of the Royal Family as well as the standard of the Governor General and the standard of the Lieutenant Governor (in his/her province of jurisdiction and when assuming the duties of the representative of The Queen) take precedence over the National Flag of Canada on the buildings where these dignitaries are in residence or where they are attending a function.

** Order of provinces and territories joining Confederation

1. National Flag of Canada
2. Ontario (1867)
3. Quebec (1867)
4. Nova Scotia (1867)
5. New Brunswick (1867)
6. Manitoba (1870)
7. British Columbia (1871)
8. Prince Edward Island (1873)
9. Saskatchewan (1905)
10. Alberta (1905)
11. Newfoundland (1949)
12. Northwest Territories (1870)
13. Yukon (1898)
14. Nunavut (1999)

When there are more than three flagpoles/masts, the National Flag of Canada should be flown on the left of the observer facing the flags, followed by the flags of the provinces and territories. An additional National Flag of Canada may be displayed at the end of the line if desired.

Flown Alone

When the National Flag of Canada is flown alone on top of or in front of a building where there are two flagpoles, it should be flown on the flagpole to the left to an observer facing the flag.

When the National Flag of Canada is flown alone on top of or in front of a building where there are more than two flagpoles, it should be flown as near as possible to the centre

When the National Flag of Canada is displayed in a place of worship or on a speaker's platform, it should be against the wall, or on a flagpole on the left from the point of view of the congregation audience facing the celebrant or speaker.

When used in the body of a place of worship or auditorium, the National Flag of Canada should be to the right of the congregation or spectators facing the flag.

Flown on ships and boats

The National Flag of Canada is the proper national colours for all Canadian ships and boats, including pleasure craft. The Canadian Shipping Act states that a Canadian ship shall hoist the flag on a signal being made to her by one of Her Majesty's Canadian ships, or any ship in the service of and belonging to the Government of Canada; on entering or leaving any foreign port; and if of 50 tonnes gross tonnage or upwards, on entering or leaving any Commonwealth port.

Foreign vessels may fly the Canadian flag as a "courtesy flag" when they are berthed in a Canadian port. The flag then is customarily flown from the foremast.

General rules governing merchant vessels and pleasure craft are as follow:

  • the flag should be worn in harbour and in territorial waters but need not be worn while under way on the high seas unless the vessel wishes to identify her nationality to another ship;
     
  • whenever possible, the proper place for a vessel to display the national colours is at the stern, except that when at sea, the flag may be flown from a gaff;
     
  • when in harbour the flag should be hoisted at 0800 hours and lowered at sunset;
     
  • when a merchant ship and a warship of any nationality pass or overtake one another, the merchant ship should dip the flag as a gesture of courtesy. If on a staff, the lowest corner of the flag should be brought to the level of the rail and kept there until the salutation is acknowledged by the naval vessel. If flown from a gaff, the flag should be lowered to six feet (1.80m) above the level of the deck, until the salute is acknowledged;
     
  • in times of mourning, the flag may be flown at half-mast, which places the upper corner of the flag next to the staff at approximately three-quarters of full-hoist. As on land, a flag hoisted to or lowered from half-mast position must first be hauled close-up.
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 owing to a loose flag rope. A satisfactory position for half-masting is to place the centre of the flag exactly half-way down the staff.

On occasions requiring that 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 will not be half-masted.

Flags on federal government buildings, airports, military bases and other establishments are flown at half-mast when directed by the Department of Canadian Heritage. The following are examples of the practice:

  • across Canada and abroad, on the death of the Sovereign or a member of the Royal Family related in the first degree to the Sovereign (spouse, son or daughter, father, mother, brother or sister), the Governor General, the Prime Minister, a former governor general, a former prime minister, or a federal cabinet minister;
     
  • within a province, on the death of the Lieutenant Governor, the Premier or another person similarly honoured by that province;
     
  • within his/her own riding, on the death of the Member of the House of Commons, or the Member of the Provincial/Territorial Legislature;
     
  • at his/her place of residence, on the death of a Senator, a Canadian Privy Councillor, or a Mayor.

Apart from occasions when flags on all government buildings and establishments across Canada are flown at half-mast, the flag on the Peace Tower of the Parliament Building at Ottawa is flown at half-mast:

  • on the death of a Lieutenant Governor;
     
  • on the death of a Canadian Privy Councillor, a Senator, or a Member of the House of Commons;
     
  • on the death of a person whom it is desired to honour.

"Death" may be taken to include the day of death and up to and including the day of the funeral.

The flag on the Peace Tower and flags at the Lester B. Pearson Building (headquarters of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade) are flown at half-mast from sunrise to sunset the day of the funeral of a foreign Head of State, a Head of Government of a Commonwealth country, or a Head of Mission accredited to Canada who dies while in office at Ottawa.

Flags at federal government buildings and other locations are also half-masted subject to special instructions on the death of members of the Royal Family other than those related in the first degree to the Sovereign, a Head of a Foreign State, or some other person whom it is desired to honour.

During periods of half-masting, the flag is raised to full- mast on all federal government buildings, airports, and military bases and establishments on statutory holidays, and also on the Peace Tower while a Head of State is visiting Parliament Hill. These procedures do not apply while flags are half-masted for the death of the Sovereign when they are only raised to full-mast for the day on which the accession of the new Monarch is proclaimed.

On Remembrance Day, November 11, the flag is flown at half- mast from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon on the Peace Tower of the Parliament Buildings.

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