Posted on September 15, 2021

Flags Will Remain at Half-Mast Until Agreement Is Reached With Indigenous Leaders: Trudeau

Olivia Stefanovich, CBC, September 10, 2021

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said he plans to keep Canadian flags on federal buildings at half-mast in honour of the residential school students who never came home until Indigenous communities and their leaders decide it’s appropriate to raise them again.

“I think Canadians have seen with horror those unmarked graves across the country and realize that what happened decades ago isn’t part of our history. It is an irrefutable part of our present,” Trudeau said.

The flags on all federal buildings were lowered on May 30 following the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia.

The decision to return the flags to full mast would be made by the prime minister on the advice of the Department of Canadian Heritage and recommendations from the Clerk of the Privy Council, said Canadian Heritage spokesperson Daniel Savoie.

Trudeau said that while Indigenous communities have known for a long time that their children were taken away and never returned, other Canadians have now “woken up” to that fact.

“So when we decided to bring down … those flags to half-mast, we made the commitment that we would not raise them again until we have worked enough with Indigenous communities and leadership to make a clear determination that it was time to raise them again and continue the hard work of reconciliation,” he said.

“Unlike [Conservative Leader Erin] O’Toole, who will do it whenever he feels like it, I will continue to put reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in the hands of Indigenous peoples.”

Trudeau’s decision is in line with what the national leaders of the Inuit, Métis and First Nations have requested.

“We are still in the midst of a discovery that should shock the nation and that should be a source of national grieving,” said Natan Obed, president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.


Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said he sees raising the flags again as a symbol of Canada’s recommitment to reconciliation.


Lowering flags was not among the TRC’s calls to action. The TRC’s commissioners made other recommendations on commemoration that have not yet been fulfilled.

In their calls to action 81 and 82, the commissioners called on the federal government to establish a national monument in Ottawa and urged provincial governments to do the same in their capital cities.


On Aug. 10, the federal government announced $20 million to build a national monument in Ottawa to honour residential school survivors, and all of the children who were taken from their families and communities.