Position of honour of the National Flag of Canada

When the National Flag of Canada or other provincial or territorial flags are displayed, proper consideration and etiquette should be maintained.

The location of the position of honour – that is, where the Canadian flag is placed – depends on the number of flags flown and the chosen formation.

Precedence

The order of precedence for flags is:

It is important to note that the following flags take precedence over the National Flag on buildings where one of the dignitaries are in residence or where they are attending a function:

  • Her Majesty’s Personal Canadian Flag;
  • the standards of members of the Royal Family;
  • the standard of the Governor General; and
  • the standard of the Lieutenant Governor (in his or her province of jurisdiction and when assuming the duties of the representative of the Queen).

If someone would like to use the flags as a decoration, it is recommended that pennants or coloured buntings are used, and not flags.

When flown alone

When the National Flag of Canada is flown alone on top 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 or in front of a building where there are more than two flagpoles, it should be flown as near as possible to the centre.

The Canadian flag flown alone in front of a building where there are three flagpoles.

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 audience).

A speaker at a podium with the Canadian flag displayed against the wall, and another speaker at a podium with the Canadian flag displayed on a flagpole, behind to her right.

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 (Figure 3).

The Canadian flag displayed on a stage, on the speaker's left.

With flags of other sovereign nations

When flown or paraded, the National Flag of Canada takes priority 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 in the position of honour. The National Flag should be raised first and lowered last, unless the number of flags permits their being raised and lowered at the same time.

There are exceptions when flying the Union Jack, and other foreign flags in Canada.

The flag configurations shown below also apply when the National Flag of Canada is flown with one or more flags of the provinces and territories.

Configurations

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.

The Canadian flag flown with the flag of another nation, on two separate flagpoles.

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.

The Canadian flag flown with the flag of another nation, on two separate, crossed flagpoles.

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 three flagpoles/masts).

Three flags displayed in a line, on separate flagpoles, with the Canadian flag in the centre.

When there are more than three flagpoles/masts, the National Flag of Canada should be flown on the far 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.

Five flags displayed in a line, on separate flagpoles, with the Canadian flag on the left and right sides.

In a semi-circle of flags representing a number of sovereign nations, the National Flag of Canada should be in the centre.

A semi-circle of flags representing a number of sovereign nations, with the Canadian flag in the centre.

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.

Two enclosed circle of flags representing a number of sovereign nations, with the Canadian flag flown on a flagpole immediately opposite the main entrance to the building and arena.

A combination of flags of sovereign nations, provinces, territories and organizations

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.

Several flag displayed in a line, with the Canadian flag on the left and right sides.

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 National Flag of Canada is positioned as follows:

The Canadian flag displayed with flags of other nations, provinces and territories, companies and associations on different flagpoles fitted with a yardarm or a gaff. The Canadian flag is always placed in a predominant position.

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 is:

  • National Flag of Canada
  • Ontario (1867)
  • Quebec (1867)
  • Nova Scotia (1867)
  • New Brunswick (1867)
  • Manitoba (1870)
  • British Columbia (1871)
  • Prince Edward Island (1873)
  • Saskatchewan (1905)
  • Alberta (1905)
  • Newfoundland (1949)
  • Northwest Territories (1870)
  • Yukon (1898)
  • Nunavut (1999)

When displays include 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. The following are examples of the order of the National Flag with the provinces and territories:

Displayed along a wall

Flags displayed along a wall start with the National Flag followed by the provinces in order of the date they entered Confederation, then followed by the territories, from left to right. Another National Flag may be placed at the end.

Diagram showing the order of precedence when displaying along a wall the Canadian flag with those of the provinces and territories. From left to right: National Flag of Canada, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Newfoundland, Northwest Territories, Yukon, Nunavut.

Displayed flanking an entrance

Flags displayed flanking an entrance start with the National Flag on the left, followed by the provinces in order of the date they entered Confederation, then followed by the territories. The order alternates sides, starting from the left, then right, then left and so on.

Diagram showing the order of precedence when displaying on each side of an entrance the Canadian flag with those of the provinces and territories. Left side, front to back: National Flag of Canada, Quebec, New Brunswick, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland, Yukon. Right side, front to back: Ontario, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island, Alberta, Northwest Territories, Nunavut.

Displayed in a “V” shape

Flags displayed in a “V” shape start with the National Flag in the centre, followed by the provinces in order of the date they entered Confederation, then followed by the territories.

Diagram showing the order of precedence when displaying in a V the Canadian flag with those of the provinces and territories. From left side to right side, following the shape of the letter V: Nunavut, Northwest Territories, Alberta, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Ontario, National Flag of Canada, Quebec, New Brunswick, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland, Yukon.

Carried in a procession

If carried with other flags, in a single file, the National Flag of Canada should always lead.

The Canadian flag carried in a single file with other flags. The Canadian flag leads the procession.

If carried side by side in a line, it is preferable to have the National Flag of Canada at each end of the line.

Two Canadian flag carried with others side by side in a line. The Canadian flags are placed at each end of the line.

If only one National Flag of Canada is available, it should be placed in the centre of the line of flags carried side by side.

A single Canadian flag carried with others side by side in a line. The Canadian flag is carried in the centre when the number of flags is uneven.

When the number of flags is even and the National Flag of Canada cannot be carried in the centre (side by side in a line), it should be carried on the right-hand end of the line facing the direction of movement.

A single Canadian flag carried with others side by side in a line. The Canadian flag is carried on the right-hand end of the line when the number of flags is even.

Note: It is suggested that the pole or pike used to carry flags be 7 or 8 feet / 2.10 to 2.40 metres in length.

Flown on ships and boats

The National Flag of Canada is the proper national colours (flag of a military unit) for all Canadian ships and boats, including pleasure craft. The Canada 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
  • on entering or leaving any Commonwealth port if carrying 50 tonnes gross tonnage or upwards.

Foreign vessels may fly the Canadian flag as a “courtesy flag” when they are docked in a Canadian port; it is then customarily flown from the foremast.

General rules governing merchant vessels and pleasure craft are as follows:

  • The flag should be worn in harbour and in territorial waters. It does not need to 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; however, the flag may be flown from a gaff when at sea.
  • When in harbour, the flag should be hoisted at 0800 hours (8 a.m.) 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 (1.80 m) 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 pulled close-up.
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