Montreal isn't properly following Quebec's flag protocol: complainants

There's a flap in Montreal over the Quebec flag.

Two Montrealers are accusing the city of violating rules set out in provincial legislation that state the Fleur-de-lis should have "precedence over any other flag or emblem'' and be displayed in certain designated places.

A lawyer for the two retired Montreal journalists championing the cause says legal action could ensue if the city fails to act.

Lawyer Hugo Vaillancourt said he and his clients looked further into the matter after they approached him.

"We did an analysis to know whether Montreal was respecting the laws,'' said Vaillancourt. 

"What we found was that there were numerous infractions in the city.''

Vaillancourt said one obvious violation was the absence of the Quebec flag from Montreal's council chamber.

He says the Fleur-de-lis was also missing from several recent official events involving dignitaries and that the order of the three flags that fly in front of city hall is incorrect.

"According to our interpretation (of the law), that means for Montreal's city hall, when there are three flags displayed, the Quebec one must be in the middle,'' Vaillancourt said.

On Thursday, the Canadian flag was flying in the middle with the Quebec and City of Montreal flags flanking it. In contrast, the Quebec flag is on the middle pole outside city hall in Quebec City.

The provincial Justice Department confirmed it sent a letter to Montreal's director general last January outlining the fact that rules weren't being followed.

A letter provided by the department written by deputy justice minister France Lynch noted the flag wasn't displayed during official events.

"Allow me to remind you of the importance of complying with the protocol,'' Lynch wrote.

A city spokesman said it has taken note of the government's correspondence and that the policy is under review.

"We are currently analyzing the different historical and legal elements related to flag etiquette,'' Gonzalo Nunez said in an email. 

"The city's flag policy dates back to 1996, so the current administration has pursued the policy of previous administrations.''

Vaillancourt said other municipalities might also be flouting the rules, but it would require further investigation.

In the case of Montreal, a formal notice letter has been drafted and will be fired off if nothing changes.

"It's a reminder that Montreal is in the province of Quebec and it must respect the Quebec law,'' said Vaillancourt. 

"It's not up to a municipal official to make distinctions to the law where there aren't any.''