It's Flag Day! Forty-three years ago today, the Maple Leaf was hoisted for the first time on Parliament Hill. But to fly it on the Peace Tower, Governor General Georges Vanier had to leave the ceremony, because federal rules said his personal flag took precedence over Canada's when he was present.
Ironically, if the man acting as head of state wanted to see the Maple Leaf flown, it could not have been raised.
That was 1965. Yet in 2008, nothing has changed. Government rules still demand that, depending on who's nearby, our flag play second fiddle to others. On the Peace Tower, the Maple Leaf gets yanked down even on the First of July!
On Canada Day, 2005, Prime Minister Paul Martin accepted the original 1965
flag in a Parliament Hill ceremony attended by the Governor General. Martin said he took inspiration every day from looking out his office window to see our flag atop the Peace Tower. The crowd gazed up, only to see the blue banner of the Governor General.
Each of our 10 Lieutenant-Governors also has a personal flag, and whenever those folks appear anywhere, they get to bump our Maple Leaf out of top spot, too. The banner of our nation cannot count on enjoying the chief position in its own country.
And it doesn't end there. The same Heritage Department protocol requires that, whenever any member of Britain's royal family is present, their personal pennants trump our Maple Leaf.
By one count, some 30 flags can push the flag of Canada from center stage. Banners that stand for 30 individuals—most of whom are not Canadian—officially eclipse the one that stands for all 33 million of us.
It's a policy that needs rewriting so that, in this country, the flag of no person flies higher than Canada's. And no Governor General should suffer the embarrassment of being asked to leave so we can unfurl it.
What better way to honor our flag on its birthday than to accord it the place on the flagpole it already holds in our hearts: First.
By Wayne Adam