Flag-flying etiquette

The dos and don’ts of raising the mighty maple leaf

By Cottage LifeCottage Life


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Many cottages proudly fly the Canadian flag—some leave it up all year round, while others hoist it to signify that they are in residence. The protocol for flying the flag is clearly specified by the federal government’s Canadian Heritage branch, and you can refer to their Rules for Flying the Flag.

A quick summary:

The National Flag always takes precedence over other national flags when flown in Canada. So, unless you’re having a foreign head of state visit your lakeside camp, Canada’s flag flies at the top of your pole.

The Canadian flag should always be flown on its own mast. Flag protocol dictates that it is improper to fly two or more flags on the same mast (eg. one beneath the other).

Be aware when decorating for your Canada Day barbecue—the Canadian flag should never be used as tablecloth!

The flag may be flown day and night, although some cottagers find the daily ritual of raising and lowering the flag to be a nice tradition.

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. It is generally recommended that you put down your drinks as a sign of respect.

Sharing the same base: three flags

When only three flags are displayed, the national flag should be at the centre. To an observer facing the display, the second-ranking flag is placed to the left of centre, and the other to the right.

A common combination of flags is the Canadian flag, a provincial or territorial flag, and a family flag. In such case, the Canadian flag should be in the center with the provincial/territorial flag to the left and the family flag to the right.

When displayed with a flag of another sovereign nation, a provincial/territorial flag, a company/association flag, or club pennants on a flagpole fitted with a yardarm or a gaff, the Canadian flag is positioned as illustrated here.

Disposal of flags

When a flag becomes tattered and is no longer suitable for use, it should be destroyed in a dignified way by burning it privately. Cottagers should not include it as part of the annual weiner-roasting and s’mores-making ceremony.

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