In 1973 the National Council in Canada of the Royal Commonwealth Society in a letter to Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau suggested that the idea of Commonwealth Day to be observed simultaneously throughout the Commonwealth be included on the agenda for the Heads of Government Meeting to be held in Ottawa that year. The proposal was not included in the agenda of that meeting but did appear as a Canadian item on the agenda of the 1975 meeting.
At that time the heads of Government agreed that the Commonwealth Secretariat be asked to select a date for such an observance that would not have any untoward historical connotations. At the meeting of senior officials in Canberra in May 1976, the Canadian proposal that the second Monday in March be set as Commonwealth Day was adopted.
Until 1977 it was the practice in Canada to observe Commonwealth Day on an ad hoc basis in conjunction with Victoria Day (a statutory holiday), also by proclamation the Queen's Birthday.
The celebration of Commonwealth Day entails no uniform manner of observance of Commonwealth Day upon member countries, it being left to each country to mark that day as it considers suitable. In Canada, the Royal Union flag, also known as the "Union Jack" where physical arrangements allow, is flown along with the National Flag at federal buildings, airports, military bases and other federal buildings and establishments within Canada, from sunrise to sunset, to mark this day.
Physical arrangements means the existence of at least two flag poles; the Canadian flag always takes precedence and is never replaced by the Union Jack. Where only one pole exists, no special steps should be taken to erect an additional pole to fly the Union Jack for this special day.
It is not a statutory holiday; rather it is a day of observance by close to one billion persons of their common bonds and the contribution of the Commonwealth of Nations to the creation of a harmonious global environment.