Sixteen years ago, a package arrived on Andy Brodoway’s doorstep containing one of the largest Canadian flag he’d ever seen.
Unbeknownst to him, his mother-in-law had applied – on his behalf – for one of the flags that once flew on the Peace Tower in Ottawa.
Brodoway wasn’t aware at the time, but has since learned that the Peace Tower flags are replaced almost daily on Parliament Hill. Then, the used flags are then dried, folded, and stored away for distribution to Canadians who have applied to receive one of the free flags.
Since receiving his surprise gift all those years ago, Brodoway has hung the flag proudly in many locations he’s stayed – on both sides of the 49th Parallel.
“That flag has been a lot of places with me,” he said, noting once he even draped it along the side of a trailer he had down in the States.
Today, that 7.5 ft. by 15 ft. cloth flag is once again hanging in front of his Murrayville bungalow.
He’s usually among the first on his block to hang out his flag leading up to Canada Day.
But with this being Canada’s 150th birthday, he said several of his neighbours beat him to the punch this year.
Nevertheless, he said, his will likely be the one to catch most people’s attention, just because of its sheer size.
Relatively unknown program
The red and white Canadian flag with its maple leaf has been an iconic symbol of national pride for 52 years now.
Back in 1994, the government introduced the flag initiative that sees the used flags around Parliament Hill (not just the one from the Peace Tower, but also others used around the grounds that are changed out weekly) given away to Canadians – one per person and household – through an application process.
When Brodoway received his flag years ago, he knew nothing about the flag initiative.
Today, in large part thanks to the advent of the internet, the waiting list for one of the Peace Tower flags is about 73 years long.
As for one of the other smaller flags from Parliament Hill, the waiting list is about 60 years.
In an attached letter from then Public Works and Government Services Minister Alfonso Gagliano, he was told of the program.
“A nation’s flag is the embodiment of what a country stands for,” Gagliano wrote. “During the past 36 years, our flag has come to be regarded with respect and admiration, both at home and aboard. For many people around the world, the red maple leaf has come to stand for hope and compassion.”
In his note, Gagliano asked Brodoway to use and fly the flag with “pride and respect.”
Brodoway, and his wife Judy, have done that.
Flags changed daily
Every weekday, the designated flag master changes the Peace Tower flag – except on statutory holidays and during poor weather conditions. The flag is also changed for half-masting.
The other Parliament Hill flags are changed weekly and on days that they are at half-mast.
To replace the Peace Tower flag, the flag master folds and places a new flag in a satchel, takes the elevator to the observation deck, and climbs 33 metres of stairs and ladders.
Once at the top, the flag master lowers the flying flag and raises the new one on the 10.7-metre flagpole.
Throughout the 20 to 30 minute process, the flag is never to touch the ground.