Parliament Hill's Canada 150 flag destined for Museum of History

Sorry, waiting list. The Peace Tower flag that will fly on Parliament Hill on Canada's 150th birthday has already been promised by the former Conservative government. But in a way, we'll all own it.

Peace Tower flag that flies on July 1, 2017 set for collection to mark 150th anniversary of Confederation

The fireworks will burn extra bright when Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary of Confederation on July 1, 2017. The flag that flies above those special birthday celebrations will be turned over to the Canadian Museum of History, an Access to Information request reveals. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

When many, many people want something, perhaps the most Canadian thing to do is ... share.

That's exactly what the former Conservative government decided to do last year, when Public Works and Government Services Canada agreed to a request from the Canadian Museum of History to help mark Canada's big birthday next year.

Mark O'Neill, the museum's president and CEO, wanted to put dibs on the flag that will fly on Parliament Hill's Peace Tower on the 150th anniversary of Canada's Confederation — July 1, 2017.

"I think that the flag flown atop the Peace Tower on this day, a key date in Canada's history, should become part of the museum's national collection," O'Neill wrote last March in a letter to then heritage minister Shelly Glover.

The letter was obtained by CBC News under Access to Information.

"In addition to growing the museum's important flag collection, acquiring this flag will enable the museum to preserve this important symbol of our democracy for the benefit of future generations of Canadians."

But in making the request for the museum, O'Neill was asking to jump a pretty long queue.

57-year waiting list

The Peace Tower's flag is changed each weekday, except on statutory holidays or in poor weather. It's also changed when it's ceremonially half-masted, such as to mark the passing of a prominent Canadian or commemorate and show respect for a sad date in history.

On regular days, a flown flag is given to a member of the public who made a request through Public Works.

It's a popular program — the wait to receive a Peace Tower flag was about 57 years long as of last September.

Anyone near the top of the list who may have hoped their turn would fall on Canada's 150th birthday is evidently out of luck.

But that love for the flag is what makes it all the more valuable to the museum.

O'Neill said the museum was "impressed with the widespread attention" that the 50th anniversary of the Canadian flag generated, and "how fervently Canadians have embraced the flag as an important national symbol."

The museum's request was "in the spirit of commemoration," he wrote.

'Fitting legacy' for milestone event

In recommending the idea to her colleague Diane Finley, Glover said that she hoped the former public works minister would find the proposal "as interesting as I do."

Glover called it a "fitting legacy of this milestone event" and a "gesture befitting this important symbol."

Finley apparently agreed.

Public Works and Procurement Canada confirmed to CBC News last month that the department, which handles the distribution of the Peace Tower flags, approved the museum's request.

Stéphanie Verner, a spokeswoman for the museum, said there are not yet any specific plans for how the July 1 flag would be used.

The museum is "very interested in adding this flag to its collection due to its important historical and national significance," she wrote in response to CBC News.

Next year's Canada Day likely won't be the first or last time a flag flown on a special day is given for ceremonial reasons.

When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and two of his children helped raise the Peace Tower flag on the day his cabinet was sworn in last November, he said he hoped the flag could be returned to his kids some day.

Peter Mansbridge accompanies Trudeau and his kids as they visit the Peace Tower 1:32


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