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Can condos prohibit owners from displaying the Canadian Flag?

With Canada Day only two weeks away, 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.

The first raising of our flag

On February 15, 1965, our brand new Canadian Flag was raised for the first time on Parliament hill. Here is a video of this historic moment!

February 15, 1965: Raising Canada’s New Flag, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Condo Rules on the Canadian 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, 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.

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 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.

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 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.

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