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Stolen Canadian flags prompt questions about how to mark Canada Day this year

Oak Bay police are investigating after 14 Canadian flags were stolen from outside a dozen homes in the municipality. Police believe all the flags were stolen Tuesday night. Officers are canvassing for video of the incidents.
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Canadian flags along on Lansdowne Road ahead of Canada Day 2020. Dozens of flags have been stolen from homes in Oak Bay this year. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Oak Bay police are investigating after 14 Canadian flags were stolen from outside a dozen homes in the municipality.

Police believe all the flags were stolen Tuesday night. Officers are canvassing for video of the incidents.

Some of the stolen flags were provided by the Rotary Club of Oak Bay to raise funds for charitable causes, police said.

Joan Peggs, chairwoman of the flag program for the club, said at least 50 flags have been stolen. The flags are installed at about 600 homes across Greater Victoria every Victoria Day, Canada Day and Labour Day. They stay up for five to seven days before the club removes them until the next event.

The money raised through the program supports literacy projects, a school therapy dog and housing services, among other projects, she said.

“The flags cost $25. And so the money that we would have raised to to do community projects, we now will be using to replace these flags so that we have enough for our Labour Day installation,” she said.

Peggs said there was no discussion within the Rotary Club about whether it was appropriate to install flags for Canada Day this year, because the organization is apolitical.

About a dozen subscribers asked not to have their flags for July 1, she said.

A resident’s social media post about stolen flags sparked a discussion about whether it’s appropriate to fly a Canadian flag this Canada Day, following the discovery of more than 1,000 unmarked graves at three former residential schools.

In late May, Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation said the remains of 215 children were discovered outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School through ground-penetrating radar. That was followed by 751 unmarked graves found near the former Marieval Indian Residential School, east of Regina, and the discovery of 182 unmarked grave sites announced Wednesday near the former St. Eugene’s Mission School near Cranbook.

Some commented online to say they had decided not to fly a flag this year because it felt tone deaf in light of the grim discoveries, while others said they hung orange ribbons or an orange T-shirt, in memory of the children who died at the government-sponsored schools, in addition to a Canadian flag.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday morning he has asked that the flag on the Peace Tower at the Parliament Building’s in Ottawa remain at half-mast on July 1 “as people across the country continue to honour the Indigenous children whose lives were taken far too soon, and as we reflect on the tragedy of residential schools.”

Florence Dick, a member of the Songhees Nation whose parents were forced to attend residential schools, said she doesn’t think it’s right for people to hoist a Canadian flag this year in light of the recent discoveries. She is disappointed the federal government didn’t act to locate unmarked grave sites when residential school survivors shared their stories with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which released its final report at the end of 2015.

“They’ve heard those stories. They heard them saying children went missing,” Dick said. “Six years they sat on all that information.”

Last year, a Fairfield homeowner found 15 of his 18 Canadian flags defaced with spray-painted messages referencing the country’s harmful colonial history.

regan-elliott@timescolonist.com