Somewhat of a storm arose after representatives of Vancouver, Burnaby and the federal government took part in a flag-raising ceremony at Vancouver City Hall on Saturday (October 1) for Chinese National Day (National Day of the People’s Republic of China). In its wake, the City today issued a bulletin (see full text further below) to clarify the who, what, when and how behind the raising of flags on the ceremonial pole at City Hall. A communications officer wrote CityHallWatch that “this year was the first time the national flag of China has been raised at City Hall in recognition of their national day.” According to media, similar commemorative events happened elsewhere in Canada.
The fact that protocols and precedents exist for flag raising on national days ought to calm some nerves. From the City’s bulletin:
“At the discretion of the City Clerk, the City will fly the flags of other sovereign nations, non-profit societies and other local organizations upon request…Flag raising ceremonies at City Hall are requested by community groups by submitting a request to the City’s Protocol Office. The community group organizes the event, sends out invites and the City provides the space. As flag raisings are community organized events, it is up to the organizing group on how they promote it, including inviting media.” … “The decision to fly the flag of any nation neither implies nor expresses support for the politics of those nations.“
The additional information may not satisfy everyone but might calm some tempers — few people may have been aware that the City has an official “Flag Policy.” But others have expressed concern about government officials wearing red scarves. That too is symbolic, and below we provide a bit about both sides.
As mentioned, the flag raising was an event to mark National Day of the People’s Republic of China. Interestingly, Wikipedia has conflicting dates for the founding of the country: “The PRC was founded on October 1, 1949, with a ceremony at Tiananmen Square. One thing should be noted is that the PRC was not founded on that day, but on September 21, 1949. The Central People’s Government passed the Resolution on the National Day of the People’s Republic of China on December 2, 1949, and declared that October 1 is the National Day.
A petition by “The Alliance of the Guard of Canadian Values” is calling for an apology and the resignation of Vancouver City Councillor Kerry Jang. The group takes exception to his participation in the event as acting mayor, and to his wearing a red scarf. In an interview, he said that ““Red is the Chinese colour for luck and good fortune,” but others see a deeper meaning of the red scarf, as indicated in Wikipedia: “The red scarf is a neckerchief worn by Young Pioneers of several countries during the socialist (“communist”) era…In China, the scarf is emblematic of blood of revolutionary martyrs, as recalled in Red Scarf Park and the title of Red Scarf Girl by Ji-li Jiang about her experiences during the Cultural Revolution.”
It is interesting to note that Toronto provides considerable detail on a web page under “Protocol Services” that proactively lists past flag raisings and half masts on the “courtesy flag pole” at City Hall. Excerpt: “The City of Toronto will fly, on existing courtesy flag poles, flags of nations recognized by the Federal Department of Global Affairs on its national day or on the anniversary of a special occasion; or flags of non-profit or charitable organizations; for up to two weeks upon the written request of the group or organization. See full report. Requests to use the courtesy flagpole will be confirmed on a first come first served basis. Your flag raising request should be received by Protocol Services 3 to 4 weeks in advance of your request date.”
Some media links
Chinese flags and red scarves spark debate at Vancouver city hall: Critics say they are symbols of communist repression, while supporters defend participation in symbolic event (Mike Laanela, CBC News, 3-Oct-2016)
China flag ceremony at Vancouver City Hall raises red flags for some (Metro News Vancouver, 2-Oct-2016)
Vancouver Councillor says flap over Chinese flag at city hall rooted in racism (CKNW, 2-Oct-2016)
Controversy Over Chinese Flag (audio), CKNW
Jon McComb show
“A celebration of communism and an admission Vancouver is for sale: both allegations raised in an online petition and series of social media posts after the Chinese national flag was raised outside city hall Friday. And both signs of coded racism, according to one Vancouver City Councillor.”
City of Vancouver – Information Bulletin – October 3, 2016.
City of Vancouver flag policy
The City of Vancouver has a flag policy that applies to all flags flown by the City of Vancouver. At the discretion of the City Clerk, the City will fly the flags of other sovereign nations, non-profit societies and other local organizations upon request.
Flag raising ceremonies at City Hall are requested by community groups by submitting a request to the City’s Protocol Office. The community group organizes the event, sends out invites and the City provides the space. As flag raisings are community organized events, it is up to the organizing group on how they promote it, including inviting media. Flags raised to recognise national days remain on the pole up until sunset on the day of the official national day unless there is a conflict with another flag raising.
Flag raising ceremonies recognized at City Hall this year include:
· Feb 15 – 51st Anniversary of Canada Flag
· March 24 – The Hellenic Republic (Greece) celebrating the 195th Anniversary of independence
· May 2 – MS Awareness Month
· May 26 – Armenian Independence Day
· May 28 – Azerbaijan Republic Day
· June 5 – Slovenia National Day
· June 10 – Philippines Independence Day
· July 20 – Columbia National Day
· August 17 – National Day Indonesia
· August 24 – Ukrainian Independence Day
· September – UNESCO International Literacy Day
· September 12 – Mexican Independence Day
· September 30 – Chinese National Day
The decision to fly the flag of any nation neither implies nor expresses support for the politics of those nations. To view the City of Vancouver Flag Policy, visit: http://former.vancouver.ca/policy_pdf/AG01301.pdf.
End of Bulletin
ISSUED BY: City Clerk
APPROVED BY: City Council DATE: 2002/10/08.[Still valid October 2016]
CITY OF VANCOUVER
SUBJECT: Flag Policy
CATEGORY: Administration POLICY NUMBER: AG-013-01
To govern the flying of flags by the City of Vancouver.
This policy applies to all flags flown by the City of Vancouver. This policy does not apply
to the City’s Street Banner Program.
1 General Flag Etiquette
1.1 The Canadian Flag shall always be displayed in the position of priority.
• When flags are displayed at the same height, the Canadian flag is flown on
the left as seen by the observer of the flags.
• In a line of three flags, the Canadian flag should be in the centre.
• When flags are displayed on an angle such that the centre flag is higher
than the other flags, the Canadian flag is flown in the centre.
1.2 It is acceptable to fly the Canadian flag at night.
2.1 Flags are flown at half-mast as a sign of mourning. The flag is brought to the
half-mast position by raising it to the top of the mast and immediately lowering
it slowly to half-mast. When one flag is flown at half-mast, all flags flown
together should also be at half-mast.
2.2 All Canadian flags that are displayed on flagpoles with halyards will be flown at
half-mast on the following occasions:
• On the death of a Sovereign or a member of the Royal Family related in the
first degree to the Sovereign, the Governor General, the Prime Minister, a
former governor general, a former prime minister, or a federal cabinet
• On the death of the Lieutenant Governor or the Premier;
• On the death of a Member of the House of Commons or a Member of the
Legislative Assembly when that member represents a Vancouver riding;
• On the death of the Mayor, former Mayor, a current Vancouver City
Councillor or a former City Councillor who has served at least 10 years;
• On the death of a Vancouver city employee when their death has occurred
as a direct result of performing their duties;
• On Remembrance Day (November 11) from 11 a.m. until sunset;
• On the Day of Mourning for Persons Killed or Injured in the Workplace (April
28) from sunrise to sunset;
• On the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against
Women (December 6) from sunrise to sunset; and,
• On the death of a person to whom Council wishes to bestow this honour or
an event that Council wishes to recognize.
2.3 In the case of a death, flags shall be flown at half-mast from the day of the
death until sunset on the day of the funeral.
2.4 The flags to be flown at half-mast will include all flags flown from rooftops of
City buildings and all of the flags flown on the City’s flag islands.
2.5 In the event of a death not specified in this policy, the City of Vancouver will
follow the direction of the Federal Department of Canadian Heritage.
2.6 When half-masting has been deemed appropriate based on 2.2 or 2.5 above,
the City Clerk or designate will notify the following by e-mail:
• The Corporate Management Team
• An assigned representative for Engineering Services, Electrical Design
• The Building Services Manager and Supervisor
• The Superintendent of Manitoba Yards
• The Director of Civic Theatres
• The Director of Corporate Communications
• The Mayor’s Communication Assistant
• The City Clerk’s administrative support staff
• Vancouver Fire Department
• Vancouver Police Department (for information)
• Vancouver Public Library (for information)
• Vancouver Park Board: Director of Planning and Operations, Manager of
Major Maintenance, Communications Coordinator, and the Supervisor of
Trades, Evans Yard (for information)
3 Guest Flags and Banners
3.1 At the discretion of the City Clerk, the city will fly the flags of other sovereign
nations, non-profit societies and other local organizations upon request.
3.2 Flags of other sovereign nations will be displayed on the East side of the main
entrance of City Hall. In these cases, the flags normally flown will be removed
so that only the guest flag will be flown in that location (in the centre
3.3 In the event of an overlap, more than one guest flag may be flown. All guest
flags will be displayed on the East side of the main entrance of City Hall. In
the case of two flags being displayed, the outside flagpoles will be used rather
than the centre flagpole.
3.4 The City reserves the right to decide whether or not to fly the flag of a nation
when there is political unrest or conflict in that country. The decision to fly
the flag of any nation neither implies nor expresses support for the politics of
3.5 Flags or banners of non-profits organizations may be displayed on the East side
of the main entrance of City Hall or on the flag islands throughout the City.
3.6 Parties wishing to have their flags displayed by the City are required to supply
the flag(s). These flags should be 36”x72” and must be in good condition. The
Building Services Supervisor may be asked to store such flags for use in annual
3.7 Events involving flag raising ceremonies may be held at City Hall upon request
and at the City’s discretion. Corporate Communications should be contacted
to make arrangements for such events.
3.8 All guest flag activities will be recorded in the City Flags calendar by the City
Clerk or designate. The designate is also responsible for ensuring the records
are properly kept and stored based on the City Clerk’s records procedures.
3.9 The City Clerk or designate shall notify the Building Services Supervisor of all
bookings pertaining to City Hall. Booking for the City flag islands shall be the
responsibility of Engineering Services, Transportation.
4 Responsibility and Maintenance of Flags
4.1 The City Clerk has the responsibility and authority for making decisions
regarding the flying of guest flags, half-masting and any other discretionary
4.2 Maintenance of the flags flown at City Hall is the responsibility of the
Corporate Services Group, Building Services.
4.3 Maintenance of the flags flown on boulevards throughout the City is the
responsibility of Engineering Services, Electrical Design.
4.4 Maintenance of the flags in other departments will be delegated within each
department as appropriate.
ISSUED BY: City Clerk APPROVED BY: City Council DATE: 2002/10/08