City raises a flag for Belgium - but why not for Turkey?
Formal displays such as flag raisings are a show of inclusion, says Matthew Green
The city of Hamilton is raising the Belgian flag to commemorate the victims of a terrorist attack on Tuesday that killed at least 30 people.
But one city councillor says Hamilton should think about acknowledging other terrorist attacks around the world, too. And Mayor Fred Eisenberger says the city should be more consistent about when the city raises a flag and when it doesn't.
The Brussels attacks resulted in at least 30 deaths and wounded at least 200 others. Some city councillors asked Mayor Fred Eisenberger on Wednesday to raise the Belgian flag at city hall to remember the victims. Eisenberger agreed.
But Matthew Green, Ward 3 councillor, says the city should be more consistent in how it commemorates the victims of terrorist attacks.
Who is recognized and why? I don't have the answers, but those are the fundamental questions we need to ask.- Matthew Green, city councillor
Hamilton is a multicultural city, he says. And little acts like flag-raisings let people know they're included.
When the city raises a flag for one atrocity and not another, he said, it leaves one group feeling excluded.
"This politics of recognition is a conversation that needs to happen — who is recognized and why?" he said on Thursday. "I don't have the answers, but those are the fundamental questions we need to ask."
Latest in a bloody month of terrorism
The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for Tuesday's attacks in Brussels. A pair of bombs exploded around 8 a.m. in the departures area of the Zaventem airport, as crowds were checking in for morning flights. About an hour later, another blast struck morning commuters at the Maelbeek subway station, located near the European Union headquarters.
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The attacks were just the latest in a bloody month of terrorist incidents abroad. Three days earlier, for example, a suicide bomber killed four foreign tourists in a crowded tourism district in Istanbul, Turkey. On March 13, a terrorist car bombing in the Turkish capital of Ankara killed 37 people and injured 125.
I've had some discomfort with the notion that it's left up to the mayor's office.- Mayor Fred Eisenberger
Other attacks so far this year include:
- Suicide bombers killed at least 58 people in a Nigerian refugee camp in February.
- An attack on a Nigerian mosque this month that killed at least 24 people and injured 18.
- An attack by armed terrorists that killed 86 people — including children — in a village in northeast Nigeria.
- An attack at an Ivory Coast resort that killed 18.
'It's left up to the mayor's office'
Eisenberger admits he's uncomfortable with the inconsistency with which the city raises flags to commemorate victims of terror. But the city has no formal policy around it, he said, and he doesn't know about every international attack.
"I've had some discomfort with the notion that it's left up to the mayor's office," he said.
"Do I think it's appropriate that we do say something in response to terrorist attacks? Yes," he said. "Can we do it for all of them? I guess that gets rather difficult. Then we're in a position where if we can't do it for all of them then we shouldn't do it for any of them."
"That's a fair comment," he said. "I don't have an answer to it, but that's a fair comment."
'These things affect how people belong in their cities'
The city, he said, would be "much better off if there were defined protocols."
Green agrees with that. He's concerned with "how these things affect how people belong in their cities and communities."
Green is partnering with the Canadian Race Relations Foundation on Tuesday to hold a "Living Together Symposium", where these sorts of issues are discussed.
The event will be March 29 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Art Gallery of Hamilton, 123 King St. W. Registration is free at hamilton2016.eventbrite.ca.