Yellowknife lowers flag for George H.W. Bush, prompts mixed feelings from residents

Flags in front of Yellowknife's city hall flew at half-mast from sunrise until sunset Wednesday in recognition of former U.S. president George H.W. Bush, whose funeral was held in Washington, D.C., earlier in the day.

Bush, 94, the 41st president of the United States, died late Friday at his home in Houston. Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted that Bush was a "statesman, patriot and true friend of Canada," and said flags on Canadian federal buildings would be flown at half-mast.

But the decision to lower flags in Yellowknife for an American president sowed confusion and criticism online.

Commenters on Facebook asked why the city would lower flags for an American president, while others decried Bush's record on LGBTQ issues, such as his support for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

But some in Yellowknife say lowering the flags was a worthwhile show of respect.

"I think it's nice to show that we can respect anybody in any country, in any state," said Danika Power.

Allen Hikoalok said Bush made a big impression on people.

"It's like our elders at home, we respect all our elders and all they have to say so when president Bush had to say something you know I'm pretty sure he meant something."

Submitted by Chuck Coulter

Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty said the city decided to follow the lead of the federal government in making the decision to lower the flag. According to the city, Yellowknife's flags are lowered for the following:

  • The death of a royal family member.
  • The death of a current or former prime minister.
  • The death of a federal cabinet member.
  • The death of elected members of the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly or city councillors.
  • Upon the direction of the mayor.

Flags were also lowered at territorial government buildings.

Carmen Moore, who is with the territorial government's protocol office, said the territory typically follows the federal government's lead on flying flags at half mast.

She said when the federal government issues a notice to lower the flags, it doesn't elaborate on its reasoning.

"They don't explain why, they just tell us," Moore said.

Fishing grayling and char

Bush did have a connection to Canada's North, though. 

The 41st president visited the Northwest Territories on fishing trips at least twice and had a life-long love of fishing. His son George W. Bush said he always loved "catching the elusive striper" during the eulogy for his father at the funeral in Washington.   

"He loved fishing grayling and char," Chuck Coulter, the general manager of Plummer's Lodges, said in a Facebook message.

Bush stayed there while he was here fishing.

He said there is a spot at the Tree River called Presidential Pool named after Bush.

In Coulter's view, there is "absolutely nothing wrong lowering a flag for former President of our country's biggest ally."

Flags in the Yukon were flying at half-mast Wednesday, but in honour of former MLA Wayne Jim.

Nunavut did not lower its flags