LILLEY: O’Toole rightly calls on Trudeau to raise flags before Remembrance Day

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Canadian flags flying on federal buildings have been at half-mast for five months now and Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says it is time for them to be raised again.

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O’Toole is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to fully raise the flag starting Nov. 1.

O’Toole is right, it’s past time flags were raised up again otherwise lowering becomes a hollow gesture.

Flags were ordered to half-mast, a sign of grieving and respect, on May 30 after the discovery of 215 unmarked graves at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. The flags have never gone back up to their fully raised position and the Trudeau government has shown no indication that the order to lower the flags will change.

“All Canadians are horrified by the reminders in Kamloops and Coweses and we have deep grief and a drive to reconciliation,” O’Toole said.

O’Toole said Canadians also have pride in their country and want to see the flag raised before we get to the week marking Remembrance Day.

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“I think the flag should be restored by that time and the Prime Minister has provided no direction here,” he said.

In fact, the closest Trudeau has come to offering an idea of when the flag might go back up was during the election campaign when he said it was up to Indigenous leaders.

“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,” Trudeau said in early September.

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Trudeau accused O’Toole of wanting to put the flag up “whenever” and not showing proper respect for reconciliation.

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Rich words from Trudeau but par for the course for our virtue-signaler-in-chief. Trudeau, as he often does, will say what he thinks are the right words but won’t do the right thing.

O’Toole had initially called for the flag to be raised again after Sept. 30 — the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

You might remember that day for the beach vacation Trudeau took in Tofino rather than attending a ceremony or marking the day in some other way.

No country keeps its flag at half-mast forever, but that seems to be Trudeau’s plan.

Since lowering the flag somewhat permanently at the end of May, Trudeau has nullified what would be normal reasons for lowering it. That includes national memorial days for police and firefighters and the passing of former Ontario premier Bill Davis.

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Keeping the flag permanently lowered not only negates those days, and could soon negate Remembrance Day, it cheapens the gesture. Lowering the flag is an unusual act, which is why it is a sign of respect, while keeping it lowered is simply the new normal.

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When Trudeau finally did visit Kamloops two weeks ago, he sat next to Chief Rosanne Casimir as she was asked when the flags should go back up. She didn’t give a direct answer.

“It was an absolute honour to know that we had the support and unity of non-indigenous government entities,” Casimir said.

Then she said when she’d like to see the flag lowered.

“September 30th would be a date that we would want to ensure is truly honoured every year,” Casimir said.

If Trudeau stays on his current course the flag won’t be lowered on Sept. 30 next year because it will never have been raised.

O’Toole is right, it’s time to raise the flag back up.

If Trudeau wants to show he’s serious about reconciliation, he could start by dealing with clean drinking water or ending lawsuits against Indigenous children.

blilley@postmedia.com

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