Canadian Flag Etiquette
are symbols that identify people belonging to a group. The National
Flag of Canada and the flags of the provinces and territories are
symbols of honour and pride for all Canadians. They should be treated
with respect. The manner in which flags may be displayed in Canada is
not governed by any legislation but by established practice. The
etiquette outlined here is an adaptation of international usage and of
customs the federal government has been observing for many years. The
rules applied by the federal government are in no way mandatory for
individuals or organizations; they may serve as guidelines for all
persons who wish to display the Canadian Flag and other flags in
1964, the Prime Minister of Canada, the Right Honourable Lester B.
Pearson, informed the House of Commons of the government's desire to
adopt a distinctive national flag for Canada. He personally proposed a
flag with three red maple leaves between two blue borders. After
reviewing the hundreds of designs submitted by experts and other
Canadians, the Senate and House of Commons Committee, which had been
established by the government to consider the flag proposal, set about
classifying the designs.
Committee, after having eliminated various designs, was left with only
three: a Red Ensign with the fleur-de-lis and the Royal Union Flag
(Union Jack), the three-leaf design, and a single red maple leaf on a
white square on a red flag. The single-leaf design was adopted
unanimously by the Committee on October 29, 1964. It was proclaimed by
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on January 28, 1965, and was
inaugurated on February 15, 1965, at an official ceremony held on
Parliament Hill in Ottawa in the presence of the Governor General, His
Excellency General the Right Honourable Georges P. Vanier, the Prime
Minister, the members of the Cabinet, and Canadian parliamentarians.
words, spoken on that momentous day by the Honourable Maurice Bourget,
Speaker of the Senate, added deeper meaning to the occasion: "The flag
is the symbol of the nation's unity, for it, beyond any doubt,
represents all the citizens of Canada without distinction of race,
language, belief or opinion."
describing the details of a flag, it is assumed that the flag is
flying from a staff with the flag flying towards the right as seen by
place of honour in a flag is the upper half of the hoist. It is also
called the First Quarter and sometimes the Upper Hoist.
- Flagpole or staff
cylindrical piece of wood or metal to which a flag is attached or
from which it is hoisted.
half of a flag farthest from the halyard; also a synonym for length.
decorative ornament on the top of a pike, staff or pole. May be in
the form of a spear point, ball, maple leaf, crown, etc.
- Fourth Quarter
lower half of the fly.
- The rope which raises or lowers a flag.
half of a flag nearest to the halyard; also a synonym for width.
Grooved wheel for the halyard to pass over, which permits the
raising and lowering of a flag.
- Running eye and toggle
method of hoisting a flag by means of a rope sewn into its heading,
which has a wooden toggle at the top and a loop at the bottom that
fasten to their opposites at the end of the halyard.
- Second Quarter
upper half of the fly
of material along the hoist of a flag through which the staff or
halyard is inserted.
- Third Quarter
lower half of the hoist; it is also called the Lower Hoist.
Description and Dimensions of the National
The National Flag of Canada is a red flag
of the proportions two by length and one by width (or 64 units in
length and 32 units in width or depth as shown in the accompanying
diagram), containing in its centre a white square the width of the
flag, with a single red maple leaf centered therein.
The colours red and white are the same as
those that were used in the Canada Red ensign and are found in the
Union Jack. Red and white are Canada's official colours and, with the
maple leaf, are the symbolic elements found in the Canadian flag.
The printing ink colour is FIP red:
General Printing Ink, No. 0-712; Inmont Canada Ltd., No. 4T51577;
Monarch Inks, No. 62539/0; or Sinclair and Valentine, No. RL163929/0.
The painting colours are FIP red No.
509-211 and white: 513-201
The heraldic description is: gules (red)
on a Canadian pale argent (white) a maple leaf of the first.
In the general sense, flagpoles may be
divided into three categories: exterior permanent poles (located on
buildings or on the adjacent grounds); exterior portable poles; and
The exterior poles should be fitted with
a hoisting device such as a halyard and pulley arrangement to allow
for the flags to be easily changed and half-masted as required.
Flag size and pole length for building
poles should correspond to the following dimensions:
|3 X 6 feet
||17 to 20 feet
|0.90 X 1.80 metres
||5.10 to 6 metres
|4 1/2 X 9 feet
||30 to 35 feet
|1.40 X 2.80 metres
||9 to 10.50 metres
|6 X 12 feet
||40 to 45 feet
|1.80 X 3.60 metres
||12 to 13.50 metres
|7 1/2 X 15 feet
|2.30 X 4.60 metres
On occasion, the simple flagpole is fitted with a yardman or gaff to
increase the number of flags that may be flown from it. This practice
is in imitation of a ship's mast and is normally found at naval
establishments ashore. Care should be taken to ensure proper flag
etiquette is followed when this type of pole is employed.
Dignity of the Flag
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
Nothing should be pinned to or sewn on the National Flag of
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
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.
Displaying the Flag
The National Flag is flown at all federal government buildings,
airports, and military bases and establishments within and outside
Canada. The flag 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 should be up and
the stem down. If hung vertically, the flag should be placed so that
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 that the canton is in the upper left
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
On a flag rope (halyard)
The canton should be placed uppermost, 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 should face the north in an east-west
street, and face east in a north-south street,
thus being on the left of the observer facing east or south
Projected from a building
Displayed horizontally or at an angle from a window or balcony, the
canton must point outward.
Affixed on a motor vehicle
The flag must be on a pole firmly fixed to the chassis on the front
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 that of the National Flag of
Canada with a provincial or territorial flag, and a municipal flag or
an organization's banner. In such a case, the National Flag should be
in the center with the provincial/territorial flag to the left and the
municipal flag/organization's banner to the right (to an observer
facing the display).
When used to cover a casket at funerals
The canton should be draped over the upper left corner of the
casket. The flag should be removed before the casket is
lowered into the grave or, at a crematorium, after the service. The
flag size for a standard adult-sized casket should be 4 1/2 X 9 feet/
1.40 X 2.80m.
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.
The order of precedence for flags is:
The National Flag of Canada*
The flags of other sovereign nations in alphabetical order (if
The flags of the provinces of Canada
The flags of the territories of Canada
The flags of municipalities/cities
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.
** There are exceptions when flying the Union Jack.
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.
With flags of other sovereign nations
The National Flag of Canada, when flown
or paraded, takes precedence over all other national flags. When flown
with the flags of other sovereign nations, all flags should be flown
on separate flagpoles/masts and at the same height, all being of the
same size, with the National Flag of Canada occupying the position of
The National Flag should be raised first and lowered last, unless
the number of flags permits their being raised and lowered
With the flag of one other nation, the
National Flag of Canada should be on the left of the observer facing
the flags; both should be at the same height.
When crossed with a flag of another
sovereign nation, the National Flag of Canada should be on the left of
the observer facing the flags; the flagpole bearing the National Flag
of Canada should be in front of the pole of the other flag.
In a line of three flags, the National
Flag of Canada should be in the centre. The other two flags should, in
alphabetical order, be placed to the left and right of the National
Flag respectively, from the point of view of the observer facing the
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
representing the other sovereign nations ordered alphabetically. An
additional National Flag of Canada may also be flown on the right at
the end of the line.
In a semi-circle of flags representing a
number of sovereign nations, the National Flag of Canada should be in
In an enclosed circle of flags
representing a number of sovereign nations, the National Flag of
Canada should be flown on the flagpole/mast immediately opposite the
main entrance to a building or arena.
With a combination of flags of sovereign nations,
provinces/territories, international organizations, cities, companies,
In keeping with previously outlined practice, the National Flag of
Canada, when flown with different types of flags, should be flown on
the left of an observer facing the flags. The position of the other
flags is determined by order of precedence.
With flags of the Canadian provinces and territories
When provincial and territorial flags are flown with the National
Flag of Canada, the order is based on the date of entry into
Confederation of the provinces followed by the territories. In a
grouping of flags that includes the National Flag of Canada and all of
the flags of the provinces and territories, the order of precedence
|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.
Carried in a procession
If carried with other flags, in a single
file, the National Flag of Canada should always lead.
If carried in line abreast, it is
preferable to have the National Flag of Canada at each end of the
If only one National Flag of Canada is available, it should be
placed in the centre of the line of flags carried abreast (Figure 21).
When the number of flags is even and the
National Flag of Canada cannot be carried in the centre (of a line of
flags abreast), it should be carried on the right-hand end of the line
facing the direction of movement.
Note: It is suggested that the pole or pike used to carry flags be
7 or 8 feet/ 2.10 to 2.40m in length.
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
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
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
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
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
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
- 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
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
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 by
burning it privately.