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Mayor Mark Sutcliffe wants police chief, city officials to plan a ceremony to mark Israel’s Independence Day

Mayor of Ottawa Mark Sutcliffe is asking the chief of police and city officials to work with the Jewish Federation of Ottawa to host an event to mark Israel’s Independence Day next week.

“Like all residents of our city, Ottawa’s Jewish community deserves to gather whenever it chooses in an environment that is free from hate, violence, and racism,” Sutcliffe said on X.

He notes that Ottawa is not only a free and democratic city, but also enjoys a unique texture made of diverse cultures and communities. Sutcliffe says that his request comes after “carefully” listening to members of the community, while asking to practice their civil rights without the “fear of threats and intimidation.”

“My responsibility is to do everything possible to protect the safety of all members of our community,” reads the post. “Let’s all work together to ensure our city is safe and free from violence and racism in all its forms.”

Sutcliffe’s post comes few days after the city announced that the flag of Israel will fly at Ottawa City Hall on May 14 to mark the country’s Independence Day without holding the customary flag-raising ceremony, citing concerns about public safety.

“The City of Ottawa celebrates national holidays and independence days and holds flag-raising events and activities, in collaboration with Global Affairs Canada, for more than 190 federally recognized countries,” the City said in a news release Tuesday evening.

The city said earlier this week the public ceremony would not happen, citing consultations with Ottawa police and other stakeholders.

“This decision is based on recent intelligence that suggests hosting a public ceremony poses a substantial risk to public safety,” the City of Ottawa said. “The city must prioritize the safety of its residents, visitors, and employees. Therefore, this year’s commemoration will occur without the customary ceremony.”

It added its decision to raise the flag, but not hold the customary ceremony “reflects a commitment to safeguarding the welfare of all Ottawa residents, while upholding principles of inclusivity and respect for diplomatic relations.”

The announcement comes more than seven months since the deadly Hamas attack in Israel on Oct. 7, 2023, during which militants killed 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and took about 250 people hostage. While Israel says Hamas still holds around 100 people captive, it’s estimated that the Israeli response has displaced around 80 per cent of Gaza’s 2.3 million people and killed more than 34,500 people, according to the health officials in Gaza.

There have been regular protests in Ottawa since Oct. 7, some of them attracting thousands of people. Some pro-Palestinian groups have called on city officials not to raise the Israeli flag this year because of the ongoing conflict, while noting that Palestinians observe Nakba Day one day later on May 15, to mark the establishment of the State of Israel and the displacement of Palestinian people.

The City of Ottawa raises flags at City Hall to mark several occasions throughout the year, including a country’s national day, Pride month and Italian Week.

CTV News Ottawa has reached out to the Ottawa Police Service for comments from the chief of police.

With files from The Associated Press and CTV News Ottawa’s Josh Pringle and Ted Raymond

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