Position of honour of the National Flag of Canada

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The National Flag of Canada always takes precedence over all other national flags when flown on Canadian soil. Therefore, it should always be placed in the position of honour.

The location of the position of honour depends on the number of flags flown and the type of configuration.

  • When two flags are displayed, the position of honour is the farthest to the left when an observer is facing the display.
  • When three flags are flown, the position of honour is in the centre.
  • When more than three flags are displayed, the position of honour is the farthest to the left when an observer is facing the display.

The only flags to which precedence is given over the National Flag of Canada are The Queen’s Personal Canadian Flag, the Governor General’s Flag, the flags of the Lieutenant Governors (within their jurisdiction) and the Personal Canadian Flags of other members of the Royal Family.

Precedence

The order of precedence for flags, for all federal buildings and institutions, is under the authority of the Department of Canadian Heritage.

In Canada, the order of precedence for flags is:

  • The National Flag of Canada; (Note A)
  • The flags of other sovereign nations, in alphabetical order; (Note B)
  • The flags of the provinces of Canada, in the order in which they joined Confederation;
  • The flags of the territories of Canada, in the order in which they joined Confederation;
  • The flags of municipalities/cities;
  • The flags and banners of organizations; (Note C)
  • Historical flags.

Note A

The Queen’s Personal Canadian Flag, as well as the Personal Canadian Flags of members of the Royal Family and the personal flags of the Governor General and Lieutenant Governors (in their province of jurisdiction) when assuming the duties of the representative of the Queen, all take precedence over the National Flag of Canada on the buildings where these dignitaries are in residence or attending a function.

For example, when The Queen arrives on Parliament Hill, the National Flag of Canada on the Peace Tower is replaced by Her Majesty’s Personal Canadian Flag for the duration of her visit on Parliament Hill.

It should also be noted that the Government of Quebec has decreed that on all buildings under its authority within the province of Quebec, whether it be those of government departments, boards, schools or others, as well as on city halls, the provincial flag of Quebec is given precedence over the National Flag of Canada and must occupy the place of honour. This does not apply to the Federal government’s properties in Quebec, where the National Flag of Canada retains precedence.

Note B

There are exceptions when flying the Royal Union Flag as outlined in the section “The Royal Union Flag.”

Note C

If multiple organizational flags are displayed, they should respect the following order of precedence: international, national, provincial, territorial, regional, municipal and commercial or private organizations.

Quick reference tool

Download a quick reference tool on the order of precedence for flags.

Personal flags displacing the National Flag of Canada

The Personal Flags of The Queen, of other members of the Royal Family, of the Governor General and of the Lieutenant Governors (in their respective jurisdictions) all take precedence over the National Flag of Canada.

When The Queen is present, The Queen’s Personal Canadian Flag always takes precedence over all other flags in Canada, including that of the Governor General, the Lieutenant Governors and the National Flag of Canada.

Other Personal Canadian Flags of the Royal Family displace the National Flag of Canada but not those of the Governor General or Lieutenant Governors, as they are personal representatives of the Queen.

However, if a member of the Royal Family is present in The Queen’s stead and officially acting as Her Majesty’s representative, their Personal Flag is given the same status as The Queen’s Personal Canadian Flag. In this case only, the Personal Canadian Flag of the member of the Royal Family acting for The Queen also takes precedence over the Governor General’s and/or the Lieutenant Governor’s flag, in addition to the National Flag of Canada.

When a Royal Tour is being conducted by a senior member of the Royal Family other than The Queen, the Personal Canadian Flag of the Royal visitor is to be flown. When possible, a separate flagpole should be erected. It would not be appropriate for both a Royal and Vice-Regal Flag to fly from the same flagpole.

If more than one member of the Royal Family is attending an event, only the flag of the member with precedence shall be flown.

The Governor General’s Flag shall take precedence during all events that are considered federal in nature. However, during events considered provincial in nature, the Lieutenant Governor’s Flag shall take precedence over the Governor General’s Flag within the Lieutenant Governor’s jurisdiction. This does not apply when the event is taking place on a Canadian Armed Forces installation, in an RCMP establishment or aboard one of Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships. In these cases, the flag of the Governor General, as Commander-in-Chief of Canada, shall take precedence.

It is important to note that unlike the Vice-Regal Flags flown by the Governor General and Lieutenant Governors in their respective jurisdictions, the Territorial Commissioners’ Flags do not take precedence over all others. They do not displace the National Flag of Canada or the Territorial Flag, thus provision should be made for them to fly on a separate flagpole.

When a Royal Tour is being conducted by a senior member of the Royal Family, the Personal Canadian Flag of the Royal visitor shall take precedence over the Territorial Commissioners’ Flags.

Displaying multiple flags

When displaying flags of several nations, all flags, including the National Flag of Canada, should be flown on separate flagpoles, at the same height and be approximately the same size without, however, changing the flags’ proportions. The National Flag of Canada should be raised first and lowered last, unless the number of flags allows all of them to be raised and lowered at the same time. If an existing arrangement of flagpoles of unequal heights is used, the highest flagpole has precedence. In Canada, the National Flag of Canada occupies the position of honour.

On interior flagpoles

When displaying two flags on poles, the National Flag of Canada is on the left when facing the display, in the position of honour.

Two flags on stationary flagpoles with The National Flag of Canada in the position of honour - to the left of the second flag.

When crossed with another flag, the National Flag of Canada should be on the left when an observer is facing the flags; the flagpole bearing the National Flag of Canada should cross in front of the pole bearing the other flag.

Two flags crossed in an X formation. The National Flag of Canada in the position of honour, hanging to the left with its pole crossed over that of the other flag.

When displaying three flags, the National Flag of Canada is in the centre, in the position of honour. To an observer facing the flags, the second-ranking flag in order of precedence is placed to the left, and the third-ranking flag is placed to the right.

A common combination of flags is one that displays the National Flag of Canada with a provincial or territorial flag, and a municipal flag or an organization’s flag. In this case, the National Flag of Canada is in the centre with the provincial/territorial flag to the left and the municipal/organizational flag to the right, when facing the stand of flags.

Three flags on stationary flagpoles with the National Flag of Canada in the centre position.

If there is no order of precedence between the other two flags, they should be placed in alphabetical order to the left and right of the National Flag of Canada respectively, when an observer is facing the flagpoles.

When there are more than three flagpoles, the National Flag of Canada should be flown the farthest to the left when an observer is facing the flags, followed by the other flags, in order of precedence.

When several different national flags are flown together on flagpoles, the flags are displayed in accordance with the United Nations (UN) order of precedence, which uses English alphabetical order. The National Flag of Canada always takes precedence on Canadian soil. If it is necessary or desirable to show the symbolic equality of the nations represented in a sequence of more than three flags, a second Canadian National Flag may be added at the right end of the sequence of flags.

A line of eight flags on stationary flagpoles with the National Flag of Canada on either end.

On exterior flagpoles

When flags are displayed in a semi-circle, whether indoors or outdoors, the National Flag of Canada should be flown in the leftmost position, as viewed from the main approach, followed by the other flags, in order of precedence.

A semi-circle of seven flags on stationary flagpoles behind a water fountain with the National Flag of Canada in the leftmost position.

When the National Flag of Canada is flown alone on top of or in front of a building where there are multiple flagpoles, it should be flown on the flagpole identified as the place of honour as the observer is facing the stand of flags.

When an arrangement of multiple flagpoles exists but only some are used to fly flags, the vacant poles are disregarded. Position of honour and order of precedence are determined only according to the poles on which flags are flying.

When multiple flagpoles are placed outside a building, the row of flagpoles should ideally be parallel to the building frontage. They are displayed in the proper order of precedence as seen by approaching visitors.

Three flags on tall stationary exterior flagpoles topped with sphere finials in front of a glass building with the National Flag of Canada in the centre position.

If the row of flagpoles is perpendicular to the building frontage and visitors approach the building from the front, then the first flag in the row, which is seen first by visitors, has precedence.

If the row of flagpoles is perpendicular to the building frontage and visitors approach from either side, then the flags are displayed in the proper order of precedence as seen by approaching visitors.

Should several flags be arranged outside a building or in another open space in an enclosed circle, the National Flag of Canada should be placed in the most prominent position, more specifically the central position of the circle of flags as viewed from the main approach.

The National Flag of Canada in the front and centre position in a circle of flags on stationary poles surrounding a raised circular garden bed at the entrance of a brick building.
A circle of flags on vertical flagpoles on the rooftop of an oval building with the National Flag of Canada in the forefront (centre) position of precedence when facing the main entrance of the building.

Since the position of honour and order of precedence depends on an observer’s view of an arrangement of flags, there may be instances where complicated internal or external architecture, paths or approach make determining such arrangements difficult. Generally, the best practice is to place flags visibly along the main approach or at the main entrance of a building, room or space.

If multiple flagpoles at any given venue are separated into two or more obvious and distinct groups, each group of flagpoles observes its own order of precedence. Furthermore, there may also be precedence between groups of flagpoles whereby a group to the left when seen by an observer has precedence over a group on the right.

Did you know?

When a group of buildings function as a unit or are physically connected, as might be the case with an office complex for example, it is not required that every building display flags. A single flag or display of flags can be used to represent the entire complex. The flags should be appropriately placed and visible, and respect the order of precedence and position of honour.

When displayed on a flagpole fitted with a yardarm or a gaff, flags should be displayed in order of precedence, in the following positions:

The National Flag of Canada occupying the position of honour when displaying multiple flags (three flags) using a flagpole fitted with a yardarm or a gaff.
The National Flag of Canada occupying the position of honour when displaying multiple flags (four flags) using a flagpole fitted with a yardarm or a gaff.

Note: Position 1 is the position of honour. Positions 3 (at left) or 4 (at right) are not considered the position of honour. These positions are used to display either a personal or corporate flag or pennant/burgee.

With the flags of the provinces and territories

Each province and territory has a flag that reflects its heritage and represents all the people of the province or territory. These flags should be treated with the same respect as the National Flag of Canada.

The order of precedence for the flying of the provincial flags is according to the date of entry of the province into Confederation, by population at the time of entry into the Dominion. The three territories’ flags are displayed in order of creation and follow those of the provinces.

  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 and Labrador (1949)
  12. Northwest Territories (1870)
  13. Yukon (1898)
  14. Nunavut (1999)

Did you know?

The latest territorial flag to be created, that of Nunavut (1999), was designed by the Canadian Heraldic Authority with input from Inuit communities and artists. The inuksuk and the Niqirtsituk are two important symbols found on the Nunavut Flag.

Displayed along a wall

Flags displayed along a wall start with the National Flag of Canada on the left, in the place of honour; followed by the provinces, in order of precedence; followed by the territories. If desired, another National Flag of Canada may be placed at the end, on the right side of the display.

The order of precedence of the provinces and territories when displayed against a wall based on the year of entry into Confederation. Flanked by the National Flag of Canada on either end.

Displayed flanking an entrance

Flags displayed flanking an entrance start with the National Flag of Canada on the left, in the place of honour, followed by the provinces, in order of precedence, followed by the territories. The order alternates sides, starting from the left, then right, then left and so on.

The National Flag of Canada displayed with the flags of the provinces and territories, in order of precedence, as displayed when flanking an entrance. The order of precedence is displayed in crisscross formation beginning with the National Flag first on the left closest to the entrance, then alternating sides.

Displayed in a “V” shape

Flags displayed in a “V” shape start with the National Flag of Canada in the centre, in the place of honour, followed by the provinces, in order of precedence, followed by the territories. The order alternates sides, starting from the left, then right, then left and so on.

The National Flag of Canada displayed with the flags of the provinces and territories, in order of precedence, in a “V” display, starting with the National Flag front centre. The order of precedence alternates sides, from left to right.

In a procession

The pole used to carry flags in a procession should be 2.10 to 2.40 m (7 to 8 feet) in length.

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

A procession of three figures walking in line carrying flags with the National Flag of Canada in the lead position.

In line abreast, it is preferable to have the National Flag of Canada at each end of the line.

A procession of four figures walking in line abreast carrying flags with the figures on the far left and far right carrying the National Flag of Canada.

If three flags are carried in line abreast and only one National Flag of Canada is available, it should be positioned in the middle.

A procession of three figures walking in line abreast carrying flags with the National Flag of Canada in the middle position.

If more than three flags are carried in line abreast and only one National Flag of Canada is available, it should be positioned on the right-hand end of the line facing the direction of movement, which is the leftmost position from the point of view of spectators viewing the procession head-on.

A procession of four figures walking in line abreast carrying flags with the National Flag of Canada carried on the far left.

Quick reference tool

Download a quick reference tool on positions of honour.

As car pennants

When displaying more than one car pennant, the position of honour is the front right fender (passenger’s side). For example, if the Prime Minister shares a car with Her Majesty The Queen, The Queen’s Personal Canadian Flag will be displayed on the right front fender and the National Flag of Canada will be displayed on the left front fender. If the Prime Minister shares a vehicle with a foreign head of state or government, the National Flag of Canada is displayed on the right front fender and the foreign flag is displayed on the left front fender.

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