Heritage Structure | Section 2 – Retirement and disposal of colours

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  1. All Colours which have been consecrated and presented to a unit of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), whether donated or provided at public expense, are and remain Crown property in perpetuity, and are controlled by the Department of National Defence on behalf of the Canadian government. The Colours are memorials to the brave deeds and sacrifices of the units and individuals who serve under them. If deposited or laid-up, they are the responsibility of the custodian and must remain accessible to the public. Retired Colours are accounted for by NDHQ/DHH. Formal permission from NDHQ/DHH is required before removal for any purpose.
  2. Custodians shall ensure that laid-up and deposited Colours are kept on display to the general public. They may not be stored or displayed in unaccessible areas, e.g. stored in sliding drawers in museum curatorial spaces with restricted access for scholarly research purposes only.
  3. Under no circumstances are Colours or portions of Colours allowed to pass into the possession of private individuals. If the custodian can no longer preserve them, they must be returned to NDHQ/DHH for disposal, unless mutually satisfactory arrangements can be made with the unit and DHH.
  4. When Colours are honourably retired and laid-up, they are left to decay and disintegrate, normally on their pikes or lances, until they cease to exist. Although the custodian may preserve the Colours under glass or otherwise handle them to retard disintegration, they shall never be restored or conserved. To do so would be akin to creating facsimiles of the consecrated originals. Although there are instances of replicas being made of Colours, NDHQ will not authorize their use or production. If replicas are identified, they must be clearly marked for historical or display purposes.They cannot be consecrated, carried or deposited, and they are not entitled to the honours accorded to consecrated Colours.
  5. Pieces which become detached while a Colour is laid-up, lose their sacred status and shall be burnt to ashes (see Section 1, paragraph 40). Pikes, cords and pike heads for laid-up Colours shall not be replaced from public, non-public or private funds.
  6. Serviceable Colours of a disbanded unit remain the property of the Crown and may be reactivated should the unit be reconstituted. In such case, DHH shall issue instructions through command headquarters to ensure that Colours can be reclaimed from the custody of those persons entrusted with deposit.


  1. Colours in possession of a unit shall be deposited or laid-up:
    1. when a unit is to be disbanded or made dormant;
    2. when units are amalgamated or redesignated and the old Colours are no longer to be carried, but only after new Colours have been obtained;
    3. when a unit cannot provide a suitable Canadian based rear-party and is assigned to the Special Force on mobilization and warned for active service duty outside of Canada, or when a unit is ordered on active operations, including United Nations, NATO, international and other peacekeeping-type missions; and
    4. when a unit is converted or re-roled to a non-Colour-bearing un (see Section 1, paragraph 21).
  2. In addition, when Colours are replaced for reasons of non-serviceability, the old Colours shall be disposed of in a laying-up ceremony as detailed in A-DH-201-000/PT-000, The Canadian Armed Forces Manual of Drill and Ceremonial).
  3. Lay-up shall be in either a sacred or public building, in accordance with unit preference. Places of Worship, legislative buildings and city halls are most common. A military museum which is generally open to the public is acceptable as a public building; an officers' mess is not. DHH will give further guidance on request if necessary.
  4. When Colours have been deposited or laid-up, a report shall be forwarded through the chain of command to NDHQ/DHH, which shall include:
    1. the nature of the Colour(s) deposited and date;
    2. the name and location of the building in which deposited;
    3. the custodian (e.g., place of worship, municipal, county, provincial or federal authority);
    4. certification that the custodian has been fully briefed regarding ownership and procedure issues, and is aware that deposited Colours may be reactivated; and
    5. verification that the location is in accordance with unit preference.
  5. In consultation with DHH, Commanding officers of units depositing Colours shall ensure that the custodian is provided with a copy of sections 1 and 2 to this chapter.


  1. In a Place of Worship:
    1. Colours are normally laid up in the nave or body of a Place of Worship rather than the sanctuary, which is usually used for temporarily deposited Colours.
    2. In a sanctuary, Colours shall be positioned to face the congregation, with the sanctuary's right (its left as seen by the congregation) the position of honour. Thus a Standard, Guidon or the Queen's Colour of a stand of Colours shall be placed on an altar's right (congregation's left), with the command/college/regimental Colour of a stand of Colours on the left.
    3. In the nave, directions are reversed. The right side of the congregation is the honour side, and the Queen's Colour will be placed on that side, with a command/college/regimental Colour placed on the left.
    4. If circumstances require a single stand of Colours to be laid up side-by-side, the Queen's Colour shall be nearest the altar.
    5. If unconsecrated flags are permanently displayed in a Place of Worship for commemorative purposes, they may be displayed anywhere the Place of Worship authorities deem proper, bearing in mind the dignity and precedence of the flags involved and the presence of any Colour. In general, if both consecrated Colours and other flags are permanently located in a Place of Worship, the Colours should be grouped on the right (honour) side and forward in the nave, and the other flags on the left side of the nave and behind (rearward) of the Colours. For example, if the Queen's Colour of the Royal Canadian Navy is to be laid up in the same place of worship where a Royal Canadian Navy Flag is to be permanently displayed for commemorative purposes, the former would be hung on the right side of the nave and the latter on the left.
    6. If unconsecrated flags are to be permanently displayed for commemorative purposes in a Place of Worship, only a simple ceremony should be used to prevent confusion with the honours accorded to consecrated Colours.
  2. In a public building, a stand of Colours shall be placed in accordance with normal protocol; e.g., the Queen's Colour shall be on the right.
  3. Colours deposited or laid-up simultaneously in a place of worship or public building shall be positioned in accordance with normal precedence.
  4. After Colours have been laid-up, they are considered memorials and are not normally displaced by Colours laid-up later, e.g., by the Colours of a regiment senior in precedence to the one whose Colours were originally laid-up. Laid-up Colours become extremely brittle and delicate over time. Custodians should ensure that they are disturbed as little as possible to extend their life. See also paragraphs 1 to 6.

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