Mayor Tory to boycott China flag raising at Toronto City Hall

The Chinese flag is set to be raised outside of Toronto City Hall.
The Chinese flag is set to be raised outside of Toronto City Hall. File/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Toronto Mayor John Tory will be boycotting a Chinese flag-raising ceremony at city hall Monday citing current Canada-China tensions.

The event, which is set to get underway around 10 a.m., is being held to mark the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China and will include the raising of the Chinese flag on the city’s “courtesy pole.”

Ceremonies like it are not uncommon, as the city allows countries recognized by Global Affairs Canada to raise their flags at city hall.

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“The mayor 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,” Don Peat, a spokesperson for the mayor, said in a statement.

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“City officials have been clear that the use of the courtesy flag pole does not imply or express support for politics or policies of a nation.”

The statement noted that the city itself does not raise other countries’ flags, but gives them permission to do so.

Tory attended China’s flag-raising last year and touted it as a day to celebrate Chinese culture.

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Since then, tensions between Canada and China have soured, largely beginning with the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on Dec. 1 at the request of the U.S.

In what has widely been viewed as retaliation for her arrest, China then imprisoned two Canadian men, ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor, on suspicion of spying.

Additionally, heightened tensions between Hong Kong and China have led to concerns around the world, with a protest occurring in Toronto in August over the issue.

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“The mayor believes in democracy and the rule of law,” Peat 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.”