There is a lot of discussion lately on when the government should lower the flag to half-staff on the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill. Here is the official description of the times it is appropriate, from the Government of Canada web site:

Flags on federal government buildings, airports, military bases and other establishments are flown at half-mast when directed by the Department of Canadian Heritage. The following are examples of the practice:

  • across Canada and abroad, on the death of the Sovereign or a member of the Royal Family related in the first degree to the Sovereign (spouse, son or daughter, father, mother, brother or sister), the Governor General, the Prime Minister, a former governor general, a former prime minister, or a federal cabinet minister;
  • within a province, on the death of the Lieutenant Governor, the Premier or another person similarly honoured by that province;
  • within his/her own riding, on the death of the Member of the House of Commons, or the Member of the Provincial/Territorial Legislature;
  • at his/her place of residence, on the death of a Senator, a Canadian Privy Councillor, or a Mayor.

Apart from occasions when flags on all government buildings and establishments across Canada are flown at half-mast, the flag on the Peace Tower of the Parliament Building at Ottawa is flown at half-mast:

  • on the death of a Lieutenant Governor;
  • on the death of a Canadian Privy Councillor, a Senator, or a Member of the House of Commons;
  • on the death of a person whom it is desired to honour.

In effect, the Government of Canada can lower the flag on the Peace Tower to half-staff for anyone it chooses to honour.

It should also be noted that the description talks about lowering the flag to half-mast. This is technically incorrect, since half-mast is a naval term, where the tradition started. At sea, on naval vessels, flags are indeed lowered to half-mast. However, on a land-based flag pole, the proper term is half-staff.