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Can Condos Prohibit Canadian Flags?

With Canada Day just around the corner, Canadian flags will start popping up everywhere, including in Condo Land.  Inevitably, this will lead to a yearly question:  can condos prohibit owners from displaying their maple leaf pride? We tackle this question in this post.

May the land over which this new Flag flies remain united in freedom and justice; a land of decent God-fearing people; fair and generous in all its dealings; sensitive, tolerant and compassionate towards all men; industrious, energetic, resolute; wise, and just in the giving of security and opportunity equally to all its cultures; and strong in its adherence to those moral principles which are the only sure guide to greatness.

Lester B. Pearson, Feb. 15, 1965 (on the first raising of the Flag)

Many corporations have rules preventing the display of, or hanging of, anything from balconies or the erection of any structure in the exclusive-use yard.  Many corporations also have rules limiting the colour of draperies or blinds visible from the outside.

At this time of the year, these rules can conflict with the wave of red-and-white patriotism that comes with Canada Day festivities.  Sometimes, this leads to all-out conflicts. We’ve written about one of these cases, earlier this year, when a Canadian Soldier planted his flag on his common element garage.

So, what are the rules applicable to these situations?

The National Flag of Canada Act provides that:

Every person who is in control of an apartment building, a condominium building or building in divided co-ownership or another multiple-residence building or a gated community is encouraged to allow the National Flag of Canada to be displayed in accordance with flag protocol.

Interestingly, the version of this Act which made it into law was significantly watered down from the original version, which was to prevent anyone from prohibiting the Canadian flag. The final version of this legislation was limited to encouraging people to allow the flag.

The best way for condo corporations to deal with this question is to adopt a rule governing the display of our national flag. A rule completely prohibiting the display of the flag may not only be found to be unreasonable under section 58 of the Condominium Act, but could also be contrary to the intent of the federal legislation.

A rule providing some guidelines such as the timeframe during which the flag can be displayed (as an example only, for some 10 days around Canada Day) as well as the size and location allowed would be more appropriate. The rule could also provide that any such display not damage common elements.

The National Flag of Canada Act already provides some guidance by encouraging the display of the flag in accordance with flag protocol. Adopting a rule which incorporates some elements of the protocol could provide corporations with the required tools to ensure that our flag is displayed with pride but, more importantly, with taste.

As importantly for owners, remember to take your flag down at the end of the celebration. This may avoid turning a patriotic celebration into a compliance matter when August rolls around.

Happy Canada Day!

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