In the weeks prior to the Canada Day long weekend, we heard news of another condo flag flap. In this latest incident, an Edmonton condo board levied a $250 fine against the owners of a condo unit for hanging on their balcony a wind sock featuring the Canadian flag.

The news story refers to a private members bill introduced in Parliament last fall which, if passed in its initial form, would have prohibited any person to prevent displaying the Canadian flag and subject such persons to injunctions, fines and a jail term of up to 2 years. The implications for condo boards and managers were unclear but of serious concern.

Just in time for Canada Day 2012, that private member’s bill, Bill C-288 (“An Act respecting the National Flag of Canada”) received Royal Assent on June 28, 2012 and is now law.

The language of the bill was substantially amended during the legislative process, thanks in part to submissions made by the Canadian Condominium Institute. The operative section reads as follows:

Displaying flag
2. (1) All Canadians are encouraged to proudly display the National Flag of Canada in accordance with flag protocol.

Allowing display
(2) 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.

Luckily for condo boards and property managers, the earlier provisions allowing the Attorney General to bring court proceedings for injunctions, fines and jail terms against offenders were not included in the final version of the bill. Instead, people who control condo or other multi-unit residences are “encouraged” to allow the flag to be displayed “in accordance with flag protocol.”

This works for us.  It is far better to “encourage” than to unnecessarily hog-tie condo boards and prevent them from enforcing reasonable rules in reasonable circumstances.

Further, the addition of “flag protocol” to the wording of the final version of the bill is an interesting development. Readers might recall some past instances of condo flag flaps where condo managers demanded removal of flags that were haphazardly thrown into a hedge or left dangling on the ground. In the most infamous case, the manager’s position was that the flag at issue was not displayed property and constituted an eyesore, if not desecration of the flag.

The “flag protocol” wording in the bill helps clarify that if you’re going to show your patriotism with a flag, you have to do it correctly. This same concept and wording could be easily included in condo rules where it is practical or permissible for flags to be displayed.

Details of the proper flag protocols are set out on the Canadian Heritage website.

Happy Canada Day weekend, everyone!