The Royal Union Flag

The Royal Union Flag, commonly known as the "Union Jack", has a long history of usage in Canada dating back to the British settlement in Nova Scotia after 1621. Although the Red Ensign was widely used in Canada from the time of Confederation until the National Flag was adopted in 1965, the Union Jack was the affirmed national symbol from 1904 and was the flag under which Canadian troops fought during the First World War. The Union Jack maintains its presence in Canada through its incorporation in the provincial flags of Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia.

When flown or displayed in Canada, the Union Jack serves two purposes. First, it is the national flag of the United Kingdom, and second, it is flown as a symbol of membership in the Commonwealth and allegiance to the Crown as approved by Parliament on December 18, 1964.

The order of precedence of the Union Jack in relation to provincial and territorial flags varies in accordance with the reason it is flown:

Precedence - Representing the United Kingdom

When representing the United Kingdom as a sovereign nation, the Union Jack takes precedence before a Canadian provincial/territorial flag (Figure 28);

Precedence when representing the United Kingdom - Union Jack followed by the Canadian flag and then the provincial flag
Figure 28

Precedence - Representing Canada's Membership in the Commonwealth or allegiance to the Crown

When representing Canada's membership in the Commonwealth or allegiance to the Crown, for example during a Royal Visit, the Union Jack will take precedence after a Canadian provincial/territorial flag. (Figure 29)

Canada's membership in the Commonwealth or allegiance to the Crown – Union Jack followed by the Canadian flag and then the provincial flag
Figure 29

Precedence – When displayed as a historical flag of Canada, that is, a flag that was used in the past by the Government of Canada or its colonial predecessors, the Union Jack must be flown in accordance with the Historical Flag Policy and Rules for Flying Historical Flags in Canada.

The Union Jack will, where physical arrangements allow, be flown along with the National Flag at federal buildings, airports, military bases, and other appropriate establishments within Canada, from sunrise to sunset, on the following occasions annually:

  • the date of the official observance of Her Majesty The Queen's Birthday (Victoria Day, the Monday preceding May 25);
  • the anniversary of the adoption of the Statute of Westminster (December 11); and
  • the date of the official observance of Commonwealth Day (the second Monday in March).

"Physical arrangements" means the existence of at least two flagpoles. The National Flag will always take precedence and will not be replaced by the Union Jack.

The Union Jack may be flown with the National Flag at the National War Memorial and at similarly appropriate federal locations in Canada in connection with ceremonies marking anniversaries of events in which Canadian forces participated with other Commonwealth forces.