Full-mast flag generates controversy at Parliament Hill

Friday, April 28, 2006

Canadian Flag
Canadian Flag

The Conservative government of Canada announced on Monday, April 24 that it will no longer lower the flag on top of the Peace Tower at Parliament Hill whenever a Canadian soldier has been killed in action, reversing a practice set down by the previous government in 2002. Instead, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Harper said that all casualties of war would be honored equally on Remembrance Day. This announcement came after the news of four Canadian soldiers killed by an improvised roadside bomb in Afghanistan.

The government has said that in the event of a Canadian soldier death, flags would fly at half-mast at the soldier's operational base, at their home base, and at the Defence Headquarters in Ottawa. The flag at Peace Tower will only be lowered to half-mast outside of the Remembrance Day in the case of the death of a former governor general, senator, prime minister, or an important public figure.

The mainstream media have mostly published articles which show the decision in a negative light. The Canadian newspaper The Chronicle-Herald carried a front page editorial on April 27 titled "Lower flag as sign of respect" which argued that the flag should be lowered "out of respect for those killed in action". The newspaper pledged to fly their own flag at half-mast whenever a Canadian soldier died in combat, and urged readers to do the same. Readers were also urged to write members of parliament to protest the government's decision. In the Opinions page the next day, The Chronicle-Herald published two editorials from readers who criticised the front page editorial, while dedicating the rest of the page to letters that spoke in favour of the newspaper's campaign.