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Canadian Flag deserves Place of Honour at ALL times

A year ago this week, we gathered in every corner of the land to cheer young athletes to greatness. If the Vancouver Olympics had unofficial colors, they were surely red and white. The Maple Leaf was everywhere, and the best parts were when our flag got hoisted just slightly higher than the others, in gold medal position. To the strains of our national hymn, we stood, belting it out, choking back tears, with a lump in our throats. It felt great, with all the world, to see no flag higher.

Which is why, on this 46th birthday of our beloved Maple Leaf, it’s insulting that federal rules still require it to take second place. The Department of Canadian Heritage decrees that the Canadian flag be eclipsed by the personal banners of any British royal, governor general, or lieutenant governor, anytime they’re nearby. By one count, no fewer than 30 personal pennants bounce the Maple Leaf from pride of place.

This past weekend, Governor General David Johnston attended Hockey Day, in Whitehorse. While talking warmly about the game and our great country, his very presence required the Canadian flag be removed from the chief position, so his flag could take it. Excuse me, Mister Johnston, but how about tweaking that rule? Your blue banner can still fly, just not ahead of the nation’s flag.

This affront happens with regularity. And since it also applies to flags of lieutenant governors, it’s ongoing, from coast to coast. Worse still, whenever a GG heads to Parliament Hill to give royal assent or attend an event, the Maple Leaf comes down off the Peace Tower completely. There’s only one flagpole up top, and the GG’s flag takes it. On Feb. 15, 1965, this sanctioned indignity gave organizers of the inaugural flag ceremony a headache. They wanted Governor General Georges Vanier to attend such a momentous occasion. But to fly the Maple Leaf from the Peace Tower, they had to scurry him off Parliament Hill. His presence would have prevented the very flag-raising he was attending!

Yet for 46 years and more, the rule hasn’t changed. If Will and Kate come for spell in July, it’ll be their lion-encrusted banners which replace the Canadian flag. Oh, the Maple Leaf will be flying somewhere nearby, just not first in the order of precedence. And that’s not good enough. Touring royals and viceroys do not trump the flag of the nation they are said to serve.

History has placed Valentine’s Day on the eve of Flag Day. The other night, CTV’s Lloyd Robertson delivered a video Valentine to our flag, recounting how, nearly half a century ago, it became the emblem of a nation that once borrowed its symbols from overseas. Today, Canada is unthinkable without its flag. Let’s press Ottawa to give it a birthday present it deserves: the gold medal position—top spot, all the time.

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