Wait-list for Peace Tower flag now exceeds average Canadian lifespan

All Mitchell Mader wanted was a meaningful piece of Canadiana when he signed up to receive one of the 250 Canadian flags flown throughout the year atop Parliament Hill's Peace Tower, but it's unlikely he'll live to see the day it arrives.

'I think if you're going to have a program, it should at least be realistic and workable,' says Mitchell Mader

Mitchell Mader says he wants a Peace Tower flag so his descendants have a reminder of their Canadian heritage. (Submitted by Mitchell Mader)

All Mitchell Mader wanted was a meaningful piece of Canadiana when he signed up to receive one of the 250 Canadian flags flown throughout the year atop Parliament Hill's Peace Tower, but it's unlikely he'll live to see the day it arrives.

The $150 Peace Tower flag is changed weekdays in Ottawa and once they're used, they are given to Canadian residents who request them. The limit is one flag per person and household.

The current waiting time for Peace Tower flags is approximately 99 years, according to the Government of Canada's website. The wait time for flags flown elsewhere in the Parliament complex isn't much better — it's 86 years.

Both of these wait times exceed the average Canadian life expectancies of men (79) and women (83).

The Canadian government uses 250 flags each year for the Centre Block of the Peace Tower in Ottawa. (CBC)

Mader, originally from Sydney, N.S., said he expects to settle down with his partner in Australia. Despite the lengthy wait time, he recently filled out an online request form for a flag because he wanted his descendants to have a reminder of their heritage.

However, Mader said he questions the integrity of a program that sends out items to individuals who may no longer be around to enjoy them.

"It just doesn't make very much sense to me. I think if you're going to have a program, it should at least be realistic and workable so that it's actually delivering flags to people who are still alive or still have a chance of being alive," said Mader, 25.

He'll be 124 years old by the time a flag is shipped off in his name.

Mader said he plans to include instructions in his will about the flag.

"It made me feel very old for the first time in my life because I realized I wasn't going to see this flag," said Mader. "I felt that just for their sake, I should sign up so that they have a chance."

Parliament Hill maintenance worker Robert Labonté prepares to ascend the stairs of the Peace Tower with a fresh flag in 2014. (CBC)

The Canadian government began giving the Peace Tower and other Parliament Hill flags away to the public in 1994.

There are more than 36,000 people on the waiting list for these flags, which makes the waiting times the longest they have ever been, said Rania Haddad, a spokesperson for Public Services and Procurement Canada.

"The Flag Initiative, launched in 1994, has grown in popularity in recent years, particularly in the lead up and following Canada 150 celebrations," Haddad said in an email. "Approximately 10,000 requests were received in 2017. By comparison, approximately 3,000 requests were received in 2016."

She said the department is assessing options to maintain the initiative. She said it's up to the people who have made flag requests to keep their information updated via fax, email or an online form.

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