Looking for the ultimate flag for Canada Day?
The Peace Tower flag could be all yours. Any Canadian living in the country can order one of the flags that fly at the highest point on Parliament Hill.
By the numbers
- 7,900 Peace Tower and West/East Block flags given out since 1994.
- 8,363 people on the waiting list for a Peace Tower flag.
- 6,274 people on the waiting list for a West/East Block flag.
- 281 people received a Peace Tower flag last year.
- 2.3 metres by 4.6 metres are the dimensions of the Peace Tower flag.
But you won’t receive it in time for this year’s July 1st celebrations — or, frankly, anytime soon.
If you put your name on the federal government’s waiting list, it would be 2056 by the time you receive the coveted parcel in the mail.
The waiting list is 42 years for a piece of the Peace Tower.
The backlog has grown significantly over the past 20 years and the waiting list keeps getting longer.
Initiative launched in 1994
Jean Chretien’s Liberal government started the initiative in 1994. It was a contentious time in Canada’s history, as Quebec geared up for a referendum. At that point, the flag was changed once a week.
But four years later, the government decided a new flag should be raised five days a week due to high demand, according to the Department of Public Works.
The West and East Block flags are also changed regularly, although not on a daily basis. Those flags are available to the public as well, with a slightly less staggering wait time of 31 years.
Public Works and Government Services Canada says it doesn’t track the cost to distribute the free Peace Tower and West/East Block flags.
'Every time is like the first time'
Every weekday morning before 9 a.m., maintenance worker Robert Labonté carries a new flag, measuring 2.3 metres by 4.6 metres, to the top of the Peace Tower.
“It’s a well-kept secret,” Labonté said. “I get to deliver a piece of Canada to people.”
After Labonté raises the flag more than 100 metres high, he carts off yesterday’s flag down the Peace Tower stairs.
As he descends the tower, Labonté sings a little celebration tune: O Canada. It’s become a daily tradition for him.
“I’m filled with pride … every time is like the first time,” Labonté said.
At the end of the week, the flags are shipped across the country. There are currently 8,363 Canadians waiting for a Peace Tower flag.
Labonté is actually one of those people. He signed up a few years ago.
“I’m no different than anybody else,” Labonté said. “I got to put my name on the list and wait.”
'It's almost like you want to wrap yourself in it'
Pauline Girard is the matriarch of her family. She’s the eldest of five siblings.
So when she first heard about the federal government’s initiative to give out Peace Tower flags 20 years ago, she immediately signed herself up and urged the rest of her family to put their names on the list.
Nearly 10 years later, in 2003, Girard received a flag in the mail. The letter indicated that it had flown on the Peace Tower on July 11, 2002.
“It feels important, it’s almost like you want to wrap yourself in it,” Girard said. “It’s not like another flag.”
Girard’s brother, Yvon Rheaume, also put his name on the waiting list. His daughter was a child then, now she’s a mother.
“We wanted one too, as a souvenir, to pass on generation to generation.” Rheaume said.
“For my granddaughter, I have a granddaughter now!” Rheaume chuckled.
But after several years, Rheaume still hasn’t received his Peace Tower flag.
“I was expecting to receive it within a month or two, not decades. So I’ll be surprised if I get it,” Rheaume said.
Still taking orders
Any person on the waiting list can inquire when they will receive their flag, according to the Department of Public Works.
The waiting list is updated biannually on the department’s website.
The federal government says it will continue taking new orders, as a gesture of goodwill to Canadians.
Despite the long waiting list, Girard encourages other Canadians to order a Peace Tower flag for their children and grandchildren.
But as she clutches her own flag, Girard says it doesn’t just belong to her and her family.
All Canadians collectively own the mighty Peace Tower flag.
“People do not realize it’s theirs, it’s ours,” Girard said.