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December 8, 2001

Unaware of half-mast directive, Copps says

More flags lowered for Montreal victims than fallen soldiers

Christie Blatchford
National Post

(Sheila) Copps

Sheila Copps did not know the half of it -- either half.

The Minister of Canadian Heritage yesterday phoned the National Post from Alberta, where she is travelling, to say she did not know her department had ordered flags half-masted in honour of the victims of the Dec. 6 Montreal massacre or that they were not similarly lowered on Remembrance Day.

"I didn't know anything about it," she said of the Dec. 5 order that went out from her department.

"I honestly didn't know," she said of her ministry's protocol for Remembrance Day.

Ms. Copps said she learned both facts in yesterday's Post, which reported that last week, for the first time in history, flags were half-masted on every federal government building, military base and Canadian ship -- including five in the Arabian Sea as part of Operation Apollo -- for the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

But for the annual Nov. 11 ceremonies, the government orders half-masted only the flag on the Peace Tower in Ottawa, meaning the tragic murders of 14 young women received more official recognition than the loss of the 100,000-plus Canadians who died during the two world wars and Korea.

"It's an anomaly," Ms. Copps declared yesterday. "It should be fixed."

She pledged to issue a directive to ensure that next Nov. 11, all federal flags are half-masted across Canada. "I will undertake to do that."

She said she had not a clue where the idea for the countrywide Dec. 6 half-masting originated.

On Dec. 6, 1989, lone gunman Marc Lepine walked into the École Polytechnique at the Université de Montréal and opened fire, killing 14 female engineering students. Parliament designated the day as one of remembrance.

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