Below is an email Rick O'Connor sent to council after falling on his sword about the "error" that was made in raising the flag.
Members of Council,
A number of Members of Council have contacted me with respect to the Proclamation and flag raising for today's March for Life.
First, I want to apologize to Members of Council with respect to today's flag raising. While the City's Flag Protocol Procedures mirror the City's Proclamation Policy in many ways, a review of this matter has determined that the request for the flag raising was made by an individual. This does not meet the criteria and, when this was discovered, the flag was taken down under my authority. The Mayor has requested a review of the Flag Protocol Procedures and the City's Proclamation Policy, which will be reported back.
With respect to proclamations, all proclamations issued by the City of Ottawa are in accordance with a Policy adopted in 2002. The provisions in this policy reflect the law in Ontario with respect to proclamations, which ensures that the City's practices are in line with Ontario's Human Rights Code. The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has ruled that, because proclamations issued by Mayors in Ontario are a service subject to the provisions of the Human Rights Code, the refusal of a Mayor to issue a proclamation may constitute a contravention of the Human Rights Code if the decision of the Mayor was based on any reason that is protected in the Code or by case law related to the Code. Therefore, based on the requirements of human rights law, most municipalities in Ontario have chosen to either eliminate the use of proclamations altogether or issue them using broad criteria. For this reason, the City of Ottawa's Policy specifically indicates a Proclamation "should not be interpreted as an endorsement by either the Mayor or the City of Ottawa."
Because the City of Ottawa chooses to issue proclamations, they are provided on request to groups where the request does not violate the Ontario Human Rights Code. Only proclamations that are contrary to the City of Ottawa's policies or bylaws, discriminatory, espousing hatred, violence or racism, illegal, not located within the boundaries of the City of Ottawa, politically or religiously motivated or intended for profit-making purposes may be refused. It should be noted that "politically or religiously motivated" means affiliated for or against specific political parties or candidates or religions.
I am attaching below an email on this topic issued by my office in 2011 to Members of Council to assist them in responding to resident inquiries for your information.
The process for issuing proclamations and approving flag raisings is overseen by the Office of Protocol to ensure that the City's policies are interpreted without a political lens and in keeping with the Ontario Human Rights Code. As the request from this anti-choice group met the test of both policies, the proclamation was issued, as it has been for many years. This is the first year the request has been made for a flag raising. It was granted on the same basis as the proclamation.
Notice how the city is quite concerned with the Human Rights Code:
"the refusal of a Mayor to issue a proclamation may constitute a contravention of the Human Rights Code if the decision of the Mayor was based on any reason that is protected in the Code or by case law related to the Code. Therefore, based on the requirements of human rights law, most municipalities in Ontario have chosen to either eliminate the use of proclamations altogether or issue them using broad criteria."
And also notice that the flag was raised based because of the same concern with the Human Rights Code.
This is the first year the request has been made for a flag raising. It was granted on the same basis as the proclamation.
You can also read the 2011 letter that O'Connor speaks about at the link above.