With Canada Day just around the corner and important festivities expected to take place this year for the 150th anniversary of the Confederation, Canadian flags will start popping up everywhere. How are condominiums to deal with requests from owners wishing to display their maple leaf pride?

The Great Flag Debate

First, a little history.

In 1963/64, a bitterly dividing debate took place in the House of Commons and in livingrooms across the nation. At the centre of the debate: should Canada adopt its own flag or should it continue to use the Canadian Red Ensign, which until then had been adopted de facto as the National flag.

A special Flag Committee was struck, composed of members from all official parties. This Committee received some 3,541 entries, most of which containing maple leaves. The Committee held 35 lengthy meetings and eventually adopted the version we know today, which was submitted by George Stanley. This version contained red, representing the English tradition and white for the French. The two red bands on each sides referenced the two oceans bordering Canada. At the time, each point of the maple leaf represented a province and a territory. The design purposely left out the Union Jack and the Fleurs de Lys.

The debate raged on at the House of Commons, where the conservatives launched a 6 week filibuster, with some 250 speeches. The final vote took place at 2:15, on the morning of December 15, 1964. Our flag was born!

Can Condo Owners Display the Canadian Flag?

Now, onto today’s “great flag debate”. Many corporations already have rules preventing the display or hanging of anything from balconies or the erection of any structure in the exclusive-use yard. Many corporations have rules limiting the colour of draperies or blinds visible from the outside.

The question then is whether a condominium corporation can prohibit residents from displaying the Canadian flag in the units or on exclusive use common elements.

The National Flag of Canada Act provides that:

Every person who is in control of an apartment building, a condominium building or building in divided co-ownership or another multiple-residence building or a gated community is encouraged to allow the National Flag of Canada to be displayed in accordance with flag protocol.

Interestingly, the Act does not prohibit condominium corporations from preventing the display of the Canadian flag, but instead encourage condominium corporations to allow it.

The best way for condominium corporations to deal with this question is to adopt a rule governing the display of our national flag. A rule completely prohibiting the display of the flag could not only be found to be unreasonable under section 58 of the Condominium Act, but could also be contrary to the intent of the federal legislation.

A rule providing some guidelines such as the timeframe during which the flag can be displayed (as an example only, for some 10 days around Canada Day) as well as the size and location allowed would be more appropriate.

The National Flag of Canada Act already provides some guidance by encouraging the display of the flag in accordance with flag protocol. Adopting a rule which incorporates some elements of the protocol could provide corporations with the required tools to ensure that our flag is displayed with pride but, more importantly, with taste.

Happy Canada Day!