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Making the case to raise the Canadian flag — so it can be lowered on Remembrance Day

A retired naval officer and the son of a residential school survivor want to see the Canadian flag raised at federal sites so that it can be lowered again to half-mast on Remembrance Day.

The flags have been at half-mast since May, after unmarked burial sites were found at the former residential school in Kamloops, B.C., and have stayed there amid subsequent discoveries at other sites. 

Brian Hills, of Stratford, P.E.I., says he agrees with the decision to lower them, but that the flags must go up across the country before Nov. 11.

“At Remembrance Day, we lower the flags in remembrance of those who have lost their lives serving this country,” the retired navy lieutenant told host Laura Chapin on CBC’s Island Morning

“If the flags are already at half-mast, I think we will lose the significance of their contribution, and their service to this country.”

Hills said the flag has added significance for veterans, because they raise and lower it every day during their time in service.

Retired navy lieutenant Brian Hills stands in front of the flagpole at his home in Stratford, P.E.I. He says the flag has added significance for veterans because they raise and lower it every day during their time in service. (Shane Hennessey/CBC )

“If we notice that that flag is at half-mast, something’s happened. We’ve lost somebody. Somebody of significance has passed away or there’s been a tragedy of some sort,” Hills said. 

“It’s never lowered and then forgotten about, as it is right now.”

Tim Sock agrees. Sock is a member of the Abegweit First Nation in Scotchfort, P.E.I., and the son of a residential school survivor. He has family in the military, and both his grandfather and great-grandfather also served. 

He says it would be a “slap in the face to those that served,” if the flag is still at half-mast by Remembrance Day. 

“If we mess with that traditional lowering of the flag in their honour, is disgraceful,” he said. 

He says his mother, the residential school survivor, “would never disgrace” her father’s military service. 

Members of Abegweit First Nation hold a memorial, in June, after the discovery of unmarked burial sites at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

“Nor would she agree to disgrace any military person who served, or is serving today. We need to honour this tradition and keep it respectful,” he said. 

“What happened with the residential school is going to continue to be brought to the surface. We have to educate, and and pass on that knowledge of what really took place. We will do that, as a people. And it doesn’t take a lowered flag to represent that.”

A spokesman for Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay says the flag “will be raised at a further date, which will be determined in partnership by Canadian officials and Indigenous communities.”

“Remembrance Day remains an important opportunity for all of us to pay tribute to those who have served, fought, and died in service of Canada, just as we have and will continue to do for generations to come,” press secretary Cameron McNeill said in a statement.

Hills says he doesn’t want to “take away from the Indigenous tragedy” of residential schools 

“But I want to have our day of remembrance for those who have served this country, and who have continued to serve this country. Give us that day,” he said. 


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