Put the Canadian flag first

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The Maple Leaf has been our flag for 55 years, and always comes first in our hearts. But federal rules say it doesn't always come first on the flagpole. Ottawa requires the Maple Leaf be demoted for royal and vice-regal flags. That decree needs to change to ensure our flag always takes precedence, honouring the people and the nation it stands for.

When any lieutenant-governor, governor general, or royal family member is on hand, the Maple Leaf is required to move to a lesser flagpole or be taken down completely. This happens even atop the Peace Tower on the First of July, an insult to the country on its very birthday.

The rule applies not only to the flags of the sovereign and his or her representatives, but to banners of some 20 members of the British royal family. The Maple Leaf must surrender its place to the flag of disgraced Prince Andrew; to the one of 30-year-old Princess Eugenie. It's bumped for that of Prince Richard, the Duke of Gloucester (England), grandson of George V--four monarchs and 110 years ago. The same goes for the flag of Princess Alexandra, who is 53 places away from the throne. Ottawa says their flags all take priority over Canada's. That's plain wrong. 

All told, at least 30 banners of individuals officially force the flag of our nation from top spot.

We call on the Prime Minister and the Department of Canadian Heritage, which promulgates this rule, to change it, putting the Canadian flag first at all times in its own country, regardless of who happens to be nearby. Personal flags may certainly be flown, but never in a position superior to the Maple Leaf.

And there's more:

Federal rules currently require the British Union Jack be flown at all federal facilities for occasions when more appropriate flags should be used:

  • Commonwealth Day (March). The Commonwealth has its own flag, one of Canadian inspiration, which should be employed to mark the day instead of the British flag.
  • Victoria Day (May). The day officially marks the birth of Canada's sovereign, not Britain's, so the Canadian flag should be flown, not Britain's.
  • The Anniversary of the Statute of Westminster (Dec. 11). The law which gave Canada independence from Britain ought to be marked by flying the Maple Leaf, not the flag of the country from which we gained independence.

No legislation is needed to realize any of these changes. But it is appropriate that Parliament strike that part of the 1964 Flag Act making the British flag a "symbol of membership in the Commonwealth and allegiance to the crown." This was written before the Commonwealth adopted its own flag in 1976, following a design made in Ottawa, at the initiative of Pierre Trudeau and Arnold Smith. Use of the British flag for Commonwealth purposes furthermore confuses allegiance to Canada with allegiance to Britain. There is no longer a need to give official status to the flag of a single, foreign member of the Commonwealth, when that body has had its own banner for over 40 years.

Finally, the position of honour for the Canadian flag should be simplified, so that, when flown with other flags, it always flies on the left, from the audience's viewpoint (the "flag's own right"). Current rules place it sometimes left, sometimes in the middle, resulting in confusion and, often, obstruction of the Canadian flag by others on either side of it.

There's no better gift we could give our beloved Maple Leaf flag than to ensure it always takes the same place on the flagpole that it has in our hearts--First.