Protocol tools

Order of precedence

Precedence consists of establishing the order of precedence of a holder of a function or rank with respect to another. The order of precedence is a protocol tool that permits the placement of guests with a view to ensuring that public activities in which they participate run smoothly.

The rules of precedence vary from one country to another and reflect the specific nature of each political system. In Québec, the order of precedence in force was adopted by the government decree entitled Ordre de préséance des autorités convoquées individuellement dans les cérémonies publiques organisées par le Gouvernement du Québec.

In the case of heads of diplomatic missions, the career heads of consular posts and the honorary heads of consular posts, precedence depends on the date they assume office.

It should be noted that precedence is not gender-specific and is not delegated, that is, a person who replaces another person in a protocol activity does not have the same rank as the person he or she replaces.

Tools for determining the order of precedence


Flag etiquette

The flag is a symbol of the highest importance for states. It represents a country, a nation and a history. For most countries, their constitution describes the features of the national flag, whose use is codified by legislation.

The use of flags is subject to well-defined rules, and their original dimensions must be maintained at all times. Flags are not a decoration or a display element. Their use carries ceremonial significance, which is referred to as the flying of the flag. It should be noted that the use of table flags is not, strictly speaking, considered a flying of the flag.

The flag must be treated with the utmost respect, and it must never touch the ground or be soiled, torn or faded. It must be handled with great care and must be displayed on a flagpole or staff. When a flag is tattered or no longer in a suitable condition for use, it must not be thrown out like any other object. You can contact Le Protocole of the Government of Québec, which will dispose of it in the appropriate way.

Flying the flag of Québec

The main national emblem, the flag of Québec must be flown according to strict usage rules:

  • Make sure that it does not touch the ground by draping it over the shoulder while it is being installed.
  • Attach the ring beneath the wooden toggle at the top of the flag to the hook at the top of the flagpole.
  • Firmly knot the halyard at the bottom of the flag to the flagpole so that it is taut.
  • Grasp the flag on either side and release it while holding the flagpole.

When the flag of Québec is installed this way, with the flagpole well inserted in the base, you can see two fleurs-de-lys inclined to the right as well as another just underneath.

For more details on flying a flag inside a building, please consult the Ministère de la Justice website (French only).

Le Protocole flies the flag during international activities such as official visits by foreign dignitaries and state ceremonials. It also advises the Government of Québec and its various departments and agencies on the relevance of flying the flag, the choice of flags, the order of precedence of the flags, etc.

Although Le Protocole of the Government of Québec is responsible for flag etiquette, the Act respecting the flag and emblems of Québec is applied by the Ministère de la Justice. For information on the flag, its history, flying the flag, its specifications and the application of the Act, please consult the Ministère de la Justice website (French only).

International flag etiquette

The Government of Québec flies the flag based on accepted international practice, taking into consideration the fact that flag etiquette varies according to place and circumstance and the number and nature of the flags to be flown. However, in every case it strives for sobriety: a flag flying in a place of honour is sufficient to fulfill its emblematic role.

The flag of Québec takes precedence over all other flags or emblems during activities or public ceremonies organized by institutions subject to the Regulation respecting the flag of Québec, which came into force in 2002.

Order of precedence of flags

According to the rules of flag etiquette, only one flag can be placed on the same flagpole or staff. When more than one flag is flown, generally accepted rules of precedence are applied to determine their relative disposition, which varies according to the number and types of flags.

Precedence is expressed solely by the relative positions of the flags: the flagpoles, staffs and finials (decoration on the top of the flagpole or staff) must be identical, and the flags must be of a similar size.

The flag of a sovereign state takes precedence over the flag of a province or a federated state, which take precedence over the flag of a city. The precedence of flags of sovereign states is generally based on the alphabetical order of the usual name (rather than the complete official name). Precedence does not determine an order of importance since sovereign states are considered equals.

For official ceremonies organized by the Government of Québec, the law stipulates that the flag of Québec takes precedence over all other flags. When the flags of Canadian provinces and territories are flow together, they are placed according to the date of entry of the province or territory into Confederation and not according to alphabetical or geographical order.

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Placement of flags

The order of precedence is not to be confused with the placement or disposition of flags, which depends on the number and types of flags.

Generally speaking, if two flags are flown, the flag with precedence is placed to the left with respect to an observer facing the display, and the second to the right.

For three flags, the one with precedence is placed in the centre, the next in order of precedence to the left, and the third to the right.

When more than three flags are flown, the flag with precedence is placed to the left, and the other flags are then placed from left to right in order of precedence.

Lastly, other rules apply when a flag is to be suspended, flown outside, projected from a building, etc. The website of Canadian Heritage contains other information on flag etiquette and ceremonial, including a bibliography.


Half-masting a flag is an official acknowledgement of collective mourning and consists of lowering the flag to half mast for a set period of time. Half-masting rules vary from one society to another. Le Protocole applies generally accepted principles. The flag of Québec is half-masted on a set date for certain commemorations and, in other circumstances, mainly for the death of an important figure, collective mourning or tragic events.

Depending on the reason, half-masting applies to different numbers of flags, such as the flag flying on the central tower of the Parliament Building or those of public buildings of a given electoral district. For an indoor flag, mourning is indicated by a black ribbon called a cravat fastened to the top of the flagstaff. It should be noted that a cravat cannot be attached to an outdoor flag. For an outdoor flag, the only way to express mourning is to lower it to half-staff.

The flag of Québec flying on the staff of the Parliament Building is half-masted at the express request of the Premier.

It should be noted than when a flag is half-masted, all other flags or banners in the same assembly must be removed during the period of half-masting, or must be half-masted as well. For example, if a municipality decides to half-mast the municipal flag, the other flags on its buildings–both the flag of Québec and the flag of Canada–must also be half-masted. Certain flags or banners are never half-masted. When in doubt, you can consult Le Protocole.

For the complete regulation concerning half-masting, or for more information on special cases, consult:

Loan and purchase of flags

With a view to consistency, Le Protocole processes all requests for international flags from the government. The Minister of International Relations and La Francophonie as well as all other administrative units wishing to fly a flag sends a request to Le Protocole, even if they already possess the foreign flag. As warranted, Le Protocole will inform them of the appropriateness of flying the flag and may also keep a record of why the flag was flown. In the event flying the flag is deemed appropriate, Le Protocole may loan the flags and flagpoles to the government department or agency.

It is also possible to purchase flags from various suppliers and from Publications du Québec. Government departments and agencies can procure flags and flagpoles from the Centre de services partagés.

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Last update: 2020-01-07 2:20:14 PM