Tory MP wants new law to protect the flag

Conservative MP John Carmichael wants to make it illegal to prevent people from flying the Canadian flag, saying no one should be restricted from displaying the Maple Leaf if it's flown properly.
Conservative MP John Carmichael has a private member's bill that seeks to make it illegal to prevent people from flying the Canadian flag, if they are flying it properly. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

A Conservative MP wants to make it illegal to prevent people from flying the Canadian flag.

Tory MP John Carmichael promoted his private member's bill, the National Flag of Canada Act, on Wednesday along with Heritage Minister James Moore at a news conference on Parliament Hill.

"This proposed law seeks to protect the rights of Canadians to fly their national flag where they live and encourage Canadians across the country to display the national flag, not just on Canada Day or Flag Day, but every day of the year," said Carmichael.

"Canadians have always assumed this right. However, we believe it is important to legally protect that right and we start with that today. All Canadians, no matter where they live, should be able to enjoy the privilege of expressing their love for our country by flying the Canadian flag," he said.


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If passed, it would be against the law to prevent someone from displaying the flag, as long as it is displayed in a "manner befitting this national symbol," and as long as the flag isn't being used improperly or being desecrated.

If someone breaks the proposed law, or is even about to contravene it, the individual could wind up in court. The bill proposes punishments of restraining orders, injunctions, a fine, or a jail term of up to two years.

Moore said there have been cases where people have been prevented from flying their flags and that the bill aims to "ensure that Canadians have clear certainty that if they wish to show pride in their country to display the Canadian flag that they are free to do so without any intimidation by condo boards or other neighbours that might find it obtrusive."

Moore suggested that the right of Canadians to fly the Maple Leaf should trump the right of condominium or other property owners who make no-flag rules.

He said condo owners have the right to run their businesses the way they want.

"But I don't think Canadians' right to display the Canadian flag should be stepped on by Canadians who feel otherwise," he said.

Bill 'an attempt to change the channel': Rae

Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae said he hadn't seen the bill but that in principle it sounded pretty straightforward and is something that could be supported on all sides. 

"The principle that people should be able to fly a flag I would have thought is a pretty simple principle. To me, it's a matter of basic Charter rights and recognizing and understanding that," he said.

But Rae questioned the government's motivation behind the proposed law and said there are many more important issues Conservative MPs should be focused on including the uncertain global economy and job creation in Canada.

"It is definitely an attempt to change the channel," he said.

Moore defended the bill, however, saying the economy remains the Conservatives' number one priority and that this private member's bill will take up very little of Parliament's time.

"If the opposition are so inclined this can take up no time and we can pass this by unanimous consent," the heritage minister said. The bill doesn't specify what constitutes a manner befitting the flag, but Heritage Canada lists the protocol and rules for waving the flag on its website.

For example, if a flag is to be attached to a car, it should be on a pole firmly fixed to the chassis on the front, right-hand side of the vehicle. If it is hung vertically, the tip of the leaf should point to the left and the stem to the right.

The proposed law is poised to pit some patriotic homeowners against their neighbours and property associations. In 2010, residents in a retirement community in Belle River, Ont., were told by the Cooper's Mill Retirement Community homeowners' association that no additions or substitutions were permitted to the exterior of homes without permission. It asked them to take down their flags but they refused. One resident said the association had received complaints from other residents that the flags looked "trailer trashy."

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