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Flag of Israel flying at Calgary City Hall

The City of Calgary says the decision to fly the Israeli flag Tuesday is in accordance with its flag-raising policy. Global News

The City of Calgary calls it “a symbolic gesture meant to honour the people, culture and history of a country, not to show support of any political stance or conflict.”

However, the decision to allow the flag of Israel to fly outside Calgary City Hall has ignited some controversy amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

The flag of Israel is flying May 14, 2024 in recognition of Israel’s National Independence Day. Global News

May 14 is Israel’s Independence Day, an annual celebration of the country’s founding, history and culture.

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In December 2023, Mayor Jyoti Gondek refused to attend the annual lighting of the menorah at Calgary City Hall, saying she wanted to remain apolitical about the conflict in Gaza.

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“Calgary is a city of nations, and viewing the flag of your country flying is something everyone can appreciate. The city has flown the Israeli flag on Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, in years past when the community has put in a request,” Gondek said in an emailed statement on Tuesday afternoon.

“The city has also flown flags for a variety of other nations and causes. Communities are welcome to apply on the City’s website to have their flag flown.”

Click to play video: 'Calgary mayor bows out of Jewish tradition, citing event’s ‘political intentions’'
Calgary mayor bows out of Jewish tradition, citing event’s ‘political intentions’

However,  the City of Calgary says the decision to fly the Israeli flag Tuesday is in accordance with its flag-raising policy.

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“Calgary has a long-standing flag raising program to recognize Calgary’s ethnic and cultural diversity, which includes recognition of national days to celebrate the nationhood of a nation or non-sovereign country,” the city says in a statement to Global News. “Today, The city joins other municipalities across Canada, including Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver, to raise a flag in commemoration of Israel’s 76th Independence Day.”

In Ottawa, the annual event was at first cancelled, then reinstated, but without the usual ceremony, after a backlash from local Jewish community advocates and politicians.

“We acknowledge that this year this day holds more significance to many communities, including Calgary’s Jewish and Palestinian communities who are deeply impacted by the ongoing conflict,” the City of Calgary says. “By flying a flag, we are recognizing the diversity of Calgary’s community.”

–With files from Paula Tran, Global News.

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