Rules for flying the National Flag of Canada

The National Flag of Canada can be displayed in many different ways, from the front yard of a house to the top of a building. There are rules and guidelines on how to display this flag to honour it.

The National Flag can also be flown with the provincial or territorial flags, or those of organizations and other nations, in which cases it would take the position of honour. Individuals can always see our flag proudly being flown on Parliament Hill.

Dignity of the Flag

The National Flag of Canada should be displayed only in a manner appropriate for this important national symbol; it should not be subjected to dishonour or displayed in a position inferior to any other flag or ensign. The National Flag always takes priority over all other national flags when flown in Canada. The only flags that are given priority 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 states that it is improper to fly two or more flags on the same mast (for example, one beneath the other). The following points should be kept in mind:

  • the National Flag of Canada should not be used as a table or seat cover, as a masking for boxes or as a barrier on a stage or platform;
  • it is not common practice to use the National Flag of Canada to cover a statue, monument or plaque for an unveiling ceremony, and should be discouraged;
  • nothing should be pinned to or sewn on the National Flag of Canada; and
  • the National Flag of Canada should not be signed or marked in any way. A border could be attached to its outside edge, which can be marked while leaving the Flag itself untouched.

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

Displaying the Flag

The National Flag is flown at all federal government buildings, airports, as well as military bases and establishments within and outside Canada. It 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 (the points 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 corner.

One flag hung horizontally and two hung vertically.

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 mast. When carried, the Flag should be respected.

On a flag rope (halyard)

The canton should be 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 (the points of the leaf) should face north in an east-west street (Figure 2). The upper part of the leaf should face east in a north-south street (Figure 3).

The Canadian flag suspended vertically in the middle of an east-west street, with the upper part of the leaf facing north.
The Canadian flag suspended vertically in the middle of a north-south street, with the upper part of the leaf facing east.

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 frame of the car on the front right.

Sharing the same base – three flags

When only three flags are displayed, the National Flag of Canada 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 National Flag of Canada with a provincial or territorial flag, and a municipal flag or an organization’s banner. In this case, the National Flag should be in the centre 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 (Figure 4). 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 or 1.40 X 2.80 metres.

The Canadian flag covering a casket, with the canton draped over the upper left corner of the casket.

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. A good position for half-masting is to place the centre of the flag exactly half-way down the staff (Figure 5).

The Canadian flag flown at half-mast on six different structures: a standard flagpole, projecting flagpole, a peak or graff, a mast with an intervening structure, a mast with crosstrees, platform or top, and a mast which is surmounting a building.

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.

For more information, see half-masting the National Flag of Canada.

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.

Folding the National Flag

There is a specific process for the National Flag of Canada to be folded. The Canadian flag draped over a casket symbolizes a final tribute that celebrates a life that has passed. Being laid to rest with the Flag is an honour that is not solely reserved for the funerals of soldiers, veterans, and dignitaries but for all Canadians.

Learn more about the process for the ceremonial folding of the National Flag of Canada.

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