City Hall flag flap prompts tighter rules

By Matthew Horwood


After examining the City of Ottawa’s rules related to special proclamations and symbolic flag raisings at City Hall, the municipality’s top solicitor, Rick O’Connor, has issued a revised “Flag Protocol Procedure” in a bid to avoid controversies of the kind that flared over the past year.


The biggest uproar occurred after the city allowed an anti-abortion group to raise its flag at City Hall under the previous, permissive regime, which made it possible for a wide variety of organizations to apply to have their flag flown at the downtown municipal headquarters.


Details of the new protocol was released in a recent letter from O’Connor to the Mayor Jim Watson and members of the city council.


“The revised Flag Protocol Procedures will therefore require an organization seeking to have its flag flown on the City’s property to have a mandate, program or activity that is directly connected to the municipality – by way of a relevant funding or partnership agreement – or that aligns with days of awareness, celebration, importance, commemoration or promotion, that are recognized by the Ontario and/or Federal Government, or a Ministry or Department thereof, “a passage from the letter read.


Groups that are requesting a flag raising must also submit their request to the city’s protocol office at least four weeks before the proposed date of the event.


The city will not fly the flag of any group whose philosophy contradicts the City of Ottawa’s policies or bylaws, or which promotes hatred, violence or racism, or are politically or religiously motivated, according to the new rules.


The revised Flag Protocol Procedure took effect on Oct. 9.