My hubby and I have lived in Canada for almost 15 years and have been Canadians for most of that time. We have been thinking of buying a Canadian flag for a while now, and finally last week on a road trip to Ottawa we walked into a flag shop and bought our very first Canadian flag. It felt like a real milestone! But before we actually fly the red and white maple leaf I did some research on Canadian flag etiquette and felt as if we needed more direction. Thankfully my friend Alison from OffThePorch.ca has great advice for all of us – Puneeta
Tips for Flying the Canadian Flag
With Canada 150 just around the corner, I thought to add a Canadian flag to our home’s exterior. I talked with my sailor husband and found out how little I know about our nation’s most beloved symbol. Before you hoist your own maple leaf, here are a few do’s and don’ts of Canadian flag etiquette.
But first some history.
The History of Flags
Flags are essentially cloth pieces with identifying symbols of power. In the days of old, the symbol usually represented a single person or family, and flags, carried by horses or men, led the family’s army into battle.
Later, the symbol became representative of a country than a single person or family. However, the power of this innocuous piece of cloth was still there. For example, if you placed a flag on a shore or mountaintop you essentially claimed ownership of an entire geographic area and everything in it.
To trample, drag, burn in protest or otherwise disrespect a flag was thumbing your nose at the family or the country. People who did this were charged with treason and, most likely, hung. Luckily today in most countries you won’t be hung, but you can be fined or even serve jail time.
Canadian Flag History
I don’t agree with editorials that say that the Canadian flag is a holdover of colonialism. True, Canada’s early history was not always easy or good. However, we flew the flag of the United Kingdom for almost 100 years and the maple leaf became the official Canadian flag in 1965.
Much like other colonies, Canada was very much a subject of the United Kingdom. The freedom to guide our own people and our resources came after years of sacrifice, loss and hard work. After flying Canada’s flag, in 1970 we began to sing the Canadian national anthem. And it was as recent as in 1982 that Queen Elizabeth II signed the Proclamation of the Constitution Act officially severing legal ties with Britain. This meant that Canada no longer needed the approval of Britain to make constitutional changes, however, the Queen remained as head of state.
Unity in Diversity
Over the years immigration has transformed the Canadian landscape, and Canada’s collective memory has changed along with the growth in population. Canada’s multiculturalism and diversity often make it the envy of nations around the world. This fusing of old and new traditions from far and near is a wonderful thing but there’s something else we need to be a strong country.
We need unity and pride of a single entity called Canada. We need a symbol that in its simplicity can represent the successive waves of migrants from past to future. Something that without apology represents all people of Canada.
It’s easy to have tenderness and fierceness about ancestral heritage, but if Canada is where you hang your toque it should come first, especially in the order of flags. So here are some tips to help you fly the flag with respect and honour.
Canadian Flag Etiquette
- Do fly the Canadian flag at the same time you are flying any other flag.
- Do fly the Canadian flag higher than all other flags whether side by side or on the same pole.
- If the Canadian flag is part of a group of flags, give it centre stage.
- Don’t let your Canadian flag get ratty.
- When replacing your Canadian flag, dispose of it by burning it privately and with dignity.
- If you’re backpacking, do wear the red and white maple leaf symbol, you will be treated well around the world.
How We Raised our Flag
Finally, this year we raised our flag with our six-year-old granddaughter. We bought the spinning flagpole along with the adjustable bracket from Lee Valley. We painted our hardware, the white flagpole, and the brass finial, using Rust-oleum Metallic Oil Rubbed Bronze spray paint. The flag, from the Canadian Heritage Collection made by Flags Unlimited, was purchased at Canadian Tire.
About the Author
Alison Pentland is a writer, photographer and small business owner with a passion for history, the good, the bad and the ugly. Fifth-generation from Ireland and Scotland via Prince Edward Island, Alison was born in Alberta. In the 80’s, she worked as a publicist in the entertainment industry and fell in love with the vibrant communities of the Toronto GTA. She is married with three grown children and parenting their six-year-old granddaughter. Alison is a graduate of York specializing in Social Cultural Anthropology. Alison owns an online costume business Feefifofun.ca. Follow her on her blog OffThePorch.ca where she shares about creative women living active, sustainable and meaningful lives 50+. You can also find her on Facebook and Instagram.