Federal government to keep Canadian flags raised after Remembrance Day ceremonies

·4 min read
The Canadian flag at half-mast atop the Peace Tower in Ottawa. (Olivier Hyland/CBC News - image credit)
The Canadian flag at half-mast atop the Peace Tower in Ottawa. (Olivier Hyland/CBC News - image credit)

The federal government will keep Canadian flags at full mast on government buildings after commemorating Remembrance Day next week.

In a joint statement today, Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez and Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller confirmed the flags on Parliament Hill's Peace Tower and all government buildings will be raised at sunset on Nov. 7 and lowered at sunrise on Nov. 8 to recognize Indigenous Veterans Day.

They will then be raised again before being lowered on Nov. 11 — Remembrance Day. After those ceremonies, the flag will fly at full mast on government buildings.

Flags on federal buildings have flown at half-mast nationwide since May 30, in response to the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia.

Flags to be lowered on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

"As the paramount symbol of our nation, the act of flying the national flag of Canada at half-mast for the longest period of time in Canada's history speaks to the extraordinary sense of loss," the ministers' statement reads. "Raising the flag at this time will allow us to honour and remember important moments in Canada's history."

The ministers said the government sought guidance from Indigenous partners on how best to honour the victims of residential schools.

"Moving forward, the national flag of Canada will be half-masted to mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation every September 30," they said.

WATCH | Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller on the decision to raise flags after Remembrance Day

The ministers also said the government will advance work on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 94 calls to action — including one calling for the creation of a national monument in Ottawa to honour "residential school survivors and all the children who never returned home."

The government says it will also approach the National Council for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) to find a place within the parliamentary precinct to raise the orange NCTR survivors' flag.

But the government is not adopting a proposal put forward earlier today by the Assembly of First Nations — which the organization framed as a "solution" that would allow Ottawa to raise Canadian flags to honour veterans on Remembrance Day while "continuing to grieve the genocide of Indigenous children."

In a media statement, AFN National Chief RoseAnne Archibald called on the government to raise the flags that have flown at half-mast for months and "attach the 'Every Child Matters' orange flag to the Peace Tower and on all federal buildings starting November 7."

"We are in agreement that the flag must be raised before Remembrance Day so that all veterans will be honoured when lowered to half-mast on November 11, 2021," Archibald said.

WATCH | AFN National Chief RoseAnne Archibald calls for action on reconciliation

"Furthermore, the 'Every Child Matters' orange flag will continue to fly until all of our children are recovered, named and symbolically or physically returned to their homelands with proper ceremony."

The AFN wanted the "Every Child Matters" flag to fly on the same mast below the Canadian flag. Official protocol states the Canadian flag should always be flown on its own mast or pole.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had said that lowering the flags honoured the residential school students who never returned home. In September, Trudeau pledged to keep them at half-mast "until it is clear that Indigenous peoples are happy to raise them again."

Speaking to reporters in Glasgow, Scotland this week, Trudeau said he was "confident that conversations with Indigenous leadership" would allow the government to raise the flags so that they could be lowered again on Remembrance Day.

"There is an understanding of how important it is to be able to lower the flags on Remembrance Day to mark our veterans, to mark people, including Indigenous Peoples who've stepped up to fight for Canadian values and paid the ultimate sacrifice," Trudeau said.

Watch: Trudeau comments on flag protocol for Remembrance Day

Miller said the federal government is also preparing for future discoveries of unmarked graves at former residential schools. He said the government will collaborate with Indigenous communities before making decisions about flags if more discoveries are made.

"We need to give them the space to take those decisions when they come and Canada will be there with them," Miller said on CBC's Power & Politics.

"All Canadians should brace themselves for further discoveries as those searches are made."

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