Citing ongoing “issues between Canada and China,” Mayor John Tory is skipping the Sept. 30 raising of the Chinese flag at Toronto city hall’s ceremonial flagpole.
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In a statement Friday, Tory’s office said he “is hopeful that in the very near future a resolution will be found to a number of issues between Canada and China which are of great concern to him and to all of the people of Toronto, who strongly believe in addressing issues at home and abroad respectfully and with due process.”
Last year, Tory and Chinese consular officials helped hoist the Chinese flag up the ceremonial flagpole on city hall’s green roof at a ceremony that included the Chinese anthem and lion-dancing. He tweeted photos of “a day to celebrate the rich culture & achievements of the country and its people. Wishing Toronto’s Chinese community a happy National Day.”
This year’s flag-raising has special significance, the city website notes, as a celebration of the “70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.”
Tory’s statement notes the city does not raise flags — it grants permission for countries or organizations granted that honour, after an application process, to do so. Permission does not express support for a country’s politics or policies.
Canada-China relations have soured since the December arrest of Chinese telecom executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on an extradition request by the United States.
That was quickly followed China’s arrest and ongoing detention of Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Korvig. China’s apparent retaliation for arrest of the Huawei executive also included toughening of a sentence for a Canadian held on drug charges, and blocking Canadian canola exports to China.
“The mayor believes in democracy and the rule of law,” the statement from Tory’s office said.
The only way democracy prevails is by allowing free speech and free expression in our society. While the Chinese consulate is permitted to raise its flag on its national day, people are also free to object to that and to protest it.”
Asked if anyone persuaded Tory to skip the event, his executive director of communications, Don Peat, replied: “We consulted Global Affairs Canada and they had advised that the decision is up to the mayor.
“He attended last year, in 2017, 2016, and 2015. He’s been to a number of flag raisings this year at city hall but the most recent national (ceremony) is likely the Filipino Independence Day flag raising in June.”