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Can condos prohibit the display of Canadian Flags?

On July 1, 1867, the British North America Act formally joined the colonies, creating a self-governing, unified, semi-independent Dominion of Canada.  In 1982, with the adoption of the Constitution Act, Canada became fully independent. The following year, July 1 was declared “Canada Day”.

With the big celebration tomorrow, a yearly question: Can condos prohibit owners from displaying the Canadian flag?

Indeed, 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, involving a Canadian soldier who planted a flag on his common element garage.

So, what are the rules applicable to these situations?

The National Flag of Canada Act

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 to be displayed.

What rules can be adopted?

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 well as the size and location allowed would be more appropriate. The rule could also provide that any such display not damage common elements.

Flag protocol

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 condo 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.

Incidentally, for our rebels without a cause, an upside-down flag on a pick up truck is not appropriate. Given the importance of the national symbol, the flag should always be treated with respect and should not be appropriated to advance political causes.

Happy Canada Day!

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