City revises flag-raising policy after anti-abortion flap

Groups requesting flag raising would need to show connection to city and 'matters of municipal interest'

October 05, 2017

A March for Life flag was raised outside Ottawa City Hall to coincide with a major rally on May 11, 2017. It was later taken down because the request came from an individual, not a group. (CBC)

The City of Ottawa is altering the rules around when flags from an outside group can fly at City Hall following a controversy in May when the flag of an anti-abortion movement group was briefly raised.

The raising of the March of Life flag on May 11 to coincide with a demonstration that day prompted criticism from members of the public and some city councillors, leading Mayor Jim Watson to call for a review of the city's policies.


The flag was taken down that same day on a technicality, because the request had come from an individual and not a group.

At the time, the city's flag-raising policy allowed any charitable or non-profit organization to request that their flag be flown, with the caveat that the group's undertakings or philosophy are not "contrary to City of Ottawa policies or bylaws, espouse hatred, violence or racism."

In a memo to the mayor and councillors on Thursday, city solicitor Rick O'Connor wrote that after reviewing the policies the city is changing the wording to ensure flags "reflect a connection to the City and to matters of municipal interest."

The revised flag protocol will require the group making the request "to have a mandate, program or activity that is directly connected to the municipality … or that aligns with days of awareness, celebration, importance, commemoration or promotion, that are recognized by the Ontario and/or Federal Government, or a Ministry or Department thereof," O'Connor wrote.

Groups would also be required to submit their request on their organization's letterhead.

The new rules are scheduled to come into effect on Monday, Oct. 9.

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