National Flag Etiquette Part I

Do you have a Canadian flag sitting in your garage waiting to fly in the wind?

Maybe you’re worried you’ll make a flag faux-pas or disrespect your nation?

You’re right to be cautious, because when the National Flag of Canada or other provincial or territorial flags are displayed, proper consideration and etiquette should be maintained.

The following National Flag of Canada etiquette is adapted from the Government of Canada website.

The Don’ts

Let’s start with the Dont’s.

According to the Government of Canada, the National Flag of Canada, whether it be a cloth, paper or made of some other fabric or material, should never:

  • Be used as a tablecloth or seat cover;
  • Be used as a masking for boxes, covering a speaker’s podium, draping a platform, as a barrier on a stage or platform, or in general for any decoration;
  • Be used to cover a statue, monument or plaque for an unveiling ceremony;
  • Have anything pinned to or sewn onto it;
  • Be signed or marked in any way (A border could be attached to its outside edge, which can be marked while leaving the Flag itself untouched.);
  • Be used as wearing apparel;
  • Be flown in a discoloured or tattered condition;
  • Be burned in effigy;
  • Touch the ground;
  • Be stepped on;
  • Be flown upside down (except as a signal of distress in instances of extreme danger to life);
  • Be dipped or lowered to the ground as a means of paying a salute or compliment to any person or thing.

The Do’s

Here’s the low-down on how to display your Canadian Flag.

On a flagpole or mast

The top left (first) quarter or canton should be placed in the position nearest the top of the flagpole or mast. When carried, the Flag should be respected.

On a flag rope (halyard)

The canton should be raised as closely as possible to the top with the flag rope tight.

Flat against a surface, horizontally and vertically

If hung horizontally, the upper part of the leaf (the points of the leaf) should be up and the stem down. If hung vertically, the flag should be placed so that the upper part of the leaf points to the left and the stem to the right from the point of view of the observer facing the Flag. Flags hung vertically should be hung so that the canton is in the upper left corner.

Flag Fact: When a flag is affixed to a motor vehicle the flag must be on a pole firmly fixed to the frame of the car on the front right.


The order of precedence for flags in Canada is:

  • The National Flag of Canada
  • The flags of other sovereign nations in alphabetical order (if applicable)
  • The flags of the provinces of Canada (in the order in which they joined Confederation)
  • The flags of the territories of Canada (in the order in which they joined Confederation)
  • The flags of municipalities/cities
  • Banners of organizations
  • Historical flags

However, the following flags take precedence over the National Flag on buildings where one of the dignitaries are in residence or where they are attending a function:

  • Her Majesty’s Personal Canadian Flag;
  • the standards of members of the Royal Family;
  • the standard of the Governor General; and
  • the standard of the Lieutenant Governor (in his or her province of jurisdiction and when assuming the duties of the representative of the Queen).

Flag tip: If you want to use the flags as decorations, it is recommended that you use pennants or coloured buntings, and not actual flags.

Flying Solo

When the National Flag of Canada is flown alone on top or in front of a building where there are two flagpoles, it should be flown on the flagpole to the left (to an observer facing the flag).

Flag Tip: When the National Flag of Canada is flown alone on top or in front of a building where there are more than two flagpoles, it should be flown as near as possible to the centre.

When the National Flag of Canada is displayed in a place of worship or on a speaker’s platform, it should be against the wall, or on a flagpole on the left (from the point of view of the audience).

When used in the body of a place of worship or auditorium, the National Flag of Canada should be to the right of the congregation or spectators facing the Flag.

Flying with Sovereign Nations

When flown or paraded, the National Flag of Canada takes priority over all other national flags.

Flag Tip: When flown with the flags of other sovereign nations, all flags should be flown on separate flag poles and at the same height, all being the same size, with the National Flag of Canada in the position of honour.

The National Flag should be raised first and lowered last, unless the number of flags permits their being raised and lowered at the same time.

There you have it, now you’re ready to hang your flag with confidence!

To purchase your own flag pole and Canadian flag visit our website.

Next month, we’ll share more National Flag Etiquette in Part II.

For more information visit the Government of Canada’s guidelines for the National Flag of Canada Etiquette.

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