Tuesday, May 6, 2008

One more reason to dislike the Tulip Festival.

OK, I am no fan of the Tulip Festival. It's usually a bunch of also-ran bands playing to largely disinterested crowds at a stage so far removed from the actual tulips that the two events may as well be happening on different planets. And walking among the tulips is nice, but not worth leaving my backyard which, at this time of year (now, at least) is also full of tulips. And before people get all up in arms (and I know some of you are), I realize there have been some decent bands over the past few years. I really enjoyed the Guess Who and the Reverend Horton Heat, among others. But I can do without Tulip Fest altogether, for the most part. Really, it's for tourists. Tourists who have never seen tulips. Or Trooper. So...residents of Moosonee, I suppose. But this year I thought they were going another way. A kind of cool way, it seemed to me. Doing away with the performances of this-year's-J. Englishman, and focusing on some cool lectures, in a series called Celebridee.

Then I read this in the paper - Tulip Fest organizers have banned a band. Haha. Banned a band, get it? The Tian Guo Marching Band of Canada was slated to perform at the opening ceremonies of Tulip Fest last week, scheduled to play O Canada and The Maple Leaf Forever. They are, one would assume, fiercely pro-Canada, and part of our diverse cultural mosaic, being foreigners who have come to our country from China, and who love our country's acceptance of them, their religious beliefs and their political stance. Canada accepts, yes, but not the Tulip Festival. Organizers of Tulip Fest clearly knew who these guys were. They saw their website, and their uniforms, and their "Falun Dafa" banner. But no one at Tulip Fest knew what any of this meant, or bothered to check. And when they found out that "Falun Dafa" was another word for "Falun Gong", and that this band happened to have attended an anti-China protest on Parliament Hill just before coming to the opening ceremonies, they had a crazy, misinformed and idiotic knee-jerk reaction.

They cancelled the performance, making up something about having a permit. They got the cops to surround the band (some members of which are as young as 12 years old) and escort them away from the Tulip Festival. This, FIVE minutes before they hit the stage. The knee-jerk reaction being this: If they are Falun gong, they are therefore against China. And if they are against China, they are political. And if they are political, they will go to protests. And if they have just COME from a protest, they are obviously planning to use Tulip Fest as another area in which to carry out their message of political protest. And if they deliver that message at Tulip Fest, they will anger the Chinese embassy. And since we have a partnership with the Chinese embassy, they will be angry with us, the Tulip Festival. And if the Chinese embassy is angry with us, we will have egg on our face. And if we have egg on our face, we will not be able to show our faces around town any more, and will have to hide in our homes and never leave, and by extension we will no longer be able to walk to the Booster Juice store. And we can't live without our Boisenberry Yogurt Explosion.

Or something to this effect. Doug Little, the marketing director of the festival, says that their decision to cancel this band's performance (and their two subsequent performances) has nothing to do with pressure from the Chinese embassy. Although Falun Gong has been declared an illegal religious organization by totalitarian China, and as such is at odds with the Chinese government and, by extension, their embassy here in Ottawa, this has nothing whatsoever to do with the banning of Tian Guo. No, the fear was (not the knowledge, but the supposition of the possibility) that Tian Guo would make a political statement at Tulip Fest. And that, according to Mr. Little, goes against everything Tulip Fest stands for. He says "the Tulip Fest is about celebration, and not to be used for political purposes". Which is a fine statement to make, usually. But he has no idea if these people are going to do anything political at all. He's just afraid of their uniforms and their banners, now that he knows what they mean. Five minutes before they go on.

But here's the thing. You know who's "performing" at Tulip Fest tonight, during the "Celebridee" portion fo the festival that I thought was such a good idea? Salman Rushdie. Salman "Satanic Verses" Rushdie. Salman "fatwa" Rushdie. Salman frikkin' Rushdie. Does it get any more political than that? And going down the list, there are about fifteen other speakers in this series that can be considered very political. (Including what I'm sure will be an illuminating talk by local city councillor Clive Doucet.) One of these speakers is Amy Chua, who will be talking about global power, politics, and economics. The Tulip Fest guide mentions that she is a member of "the dominant Chinese minority in the Phillippines". Does anyone else see a problem here? Anti-Islam is OK. Anti-urban sprawl is OK. Anti-Chinese is blasphemy? I want to go to a lot of these lectures, but I also want to kick the Tulip Fest, in general, in the balls.


  1. amazing article, everyone should read

  2. Where can I get some of those Canadian Team/Chinese P.J's ?
    Oh Man,,,they just make ya wanna run the Triathlon !!!!!
    Are these made by "ROOTS"
    Or kathy Lee Giffards Sweat Shop ?