If the federal government marked United Nations Day by flying a US flag instead of a UN one, we'd question it. If Ottawa celebrated the Olympics by unfurling the flag of Greece and not the Olympic flag, it would be puzzling. Yet, to recognize Commonwealth Day this Monday, the government didn't ask federal facilities to fly the Commonwealth flag. It had them fly the flag of the United Kingdom. The request was widely circulated by email to provincial and civic offices nationwide.
The rule comes out of the mid-60s, when Britain's flag was given special status as Canada's symbol of Commonwealth membership—a consolation to those who fought against adopting our Maple Leaf flag, preferring British symbols instead.
More than 40 years later, the rule hasn't changed. But flags have. On the initiative of Canada, the Commonwealth adopted its own flag in the mid-70s. It's an inclusive symbol of all 53 member states, a design the Commonwealth Secretariat in London is dismayed we don't employ. Here, Foreign Affairs apparently wanted to make a change, but hit roadblocks. No doubt they were embarrassed by our continued use of an imperial, colonial-era symbol, and the favoritism shown to it.
It's time to clear the hurdles. We should take pride in creating a global emblem, and change federal rules so the flag of the Commonwealth is flown, not the banner of one of its members.
By Wayne Adam