Canadian flags on federal buildings to be raised next week: government source

Trudeau had seemed to indicate Indigenous communities would have to give consent for the government to raise the flags. But the source said that is not the case

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The government will raise the Maple Leaf on federal buildings in time for them to be lowered to half-mast to honour Canada’s war dead on Remembrance Day, according to a senior Liberal source.

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Justin Trudeau hinted that a resolution was imminent this week when he said the government is working with Indigenous groups to find ways to raise and then lower the flag next week.

“I am confident that the conversations with Indigenous leadership on making sure we lower the flag again on November 11 will come to the right solution,” the prime minister said in a press conference at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow on Tuesday.

Flags have flown at half-mast on the Peace Tower and other federal buildings since May 30 as a mark of respect, following the discovery of 215 unmarked graves of former residential school Indigenous students in Kamloops, B.C.

Trudeau told reporters during the recent election campaign that flags would remain at half-mast “until it is clear that Indigenous peoples are happy to raise them again.”

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That was interpreted as a sign that Indigenous communities would have to give consent to the federal government before the flags were raised.

But the government source said that is not the case. “We are not seeking unanimous consent,” the source said.

Instead, Ottawa is in the process of informing Indigenous leaders like the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, RoseAnne Archibald, regional chiefs and the Survivors Circle of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation so that they are not “blind-sided.”

The source, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said that there will be other gestures of support from Ottawa – both symbolic and concrete. “Lowering the flag was an important symbol but it’s not the be all and end all,” the source said.

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The government announced in August that it has committed $321 million for programs to help Indigenous communities search burial sites of former residential schools and to commemorate the children who died. The federal government has received between 50 and 60 requests for help with searches on former residential school sites, funding around a dozen so far.

The decision to raise the flag is likely to be well-received. A Maru opinion poll in September suggested three quarters of Canadians agreed lowering the flag was the appropriate response but two-thirds believe it should now be raised again.

Even in Indigenous communities there is no consensus on whether reconciliation should be allowed to conflict with Remembrance Day, given the thousands of Indigenous veterans who served in the armed forces.

Cassidy Caron, president of the Métis National Council, told CBC News she is open to other ways to keep alive memories of the children who died.

But Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said residential school survivors should play a part in deciding whether to raise the flag.

A spokesman for the AFN said Archibald and regional chiefs are in meetings and the flag issue will be discussed later in the week.

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