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Greater Napanee issues apology for proclaiming Falun Dafa Day

The Town of Greater Napanee issued a Statement of Apology Monday, May 16, 2022, after Napanee Town Council mistakenly approved a proclamation request declaring May 13 Falun Dafa Day.

At the Regular Meeting of Council on April 26, 2022, Council approved a proclamation request from the Falun Dafa Association on the recommendation of the Clerk. Councillor John McCormack, seconded by Councillor Dave Pinnell, moved a motion that Council receive for information the correspondence from the Falun Dafa Association regarding Falun Dafa Day; And further, that Council proclaim May 13, 2022 as Falun Dafa Day in the Town of Greater Napanee and authorize a flag raising to recognize the day.

Councillor Terry Richardson [in white] noted that there wasn’t much information provided to Council about this proclamation request on April 26, 2022. The motion was moved and seconded by McCormack [far right] and Pinnell [center in grey suit coat]. Mayor Isbester, far left, stated that this request came from a Falun Dafa group in Kingston. Screen captured image.

The town received a great deal of public backlash because Falun Dafa is another name for Falun Gong, (Chinese: “Discipline of the Dharma Wheel”) also spelled Falungong, a controversial Chinese spiritual movement founded by Li Hongzhi in 1992.  

The movement is based on traditional meditation and breathing exercises called qigong, with a supernatural layer added by the man they call Master Li.  

Among some of his more provocative teachings are beliefs that aliens walk the Earth and disguise themselves as people to corrupt mankind, that practitioners can learn to levitate and see through walls, that race mixing in humans is part of an alien plot to drive humanity further from the gods, and that human inventions such as mechanical flight and electronic computers were given to humans by aliens.  

According to a biography published in 1993, Master Li has, “developed supernatural powers, such as the ability to move objects, fix articles, control thinking and make himself invisible.” 

To his credit, Councillor Terry Richardson noted at the Council meeting that the proclamation request was suspicious, asking, “I’m just wondering… I see on the proclamation request the name of the ‘Falun Dafa Association,’ [but] we don’t really have any other information or details. Now, I see on the next page there’s also a name with a 416 [area code phone] number and an email address, so that is helpful, but… I have to admit, this one is all new to me and I have to do further research.”

Mayor Marg Isbester clarified that, “this specific request came from Kingston, and they will be driving down from Kingston for the flag raising.” 

Richardson seemed to take that as enough information saying, “Yeah, and I guess that’s all I’m looking for.”

The Town of Greater Napanee’s Chief Administrative Officer, John Pinsent, offered the apology on the Town’s social media channels Monday, May 16, 2022. Screen captured image from Greater Napanee’s Facebook page.

The Town’s Chief Administrative Officer, John Pinsent, offered the apology on the Town’s social media channels monday which reads, “At the April 26, 2022, Regular Meeting of Council, Council approved a proclamation request from the Falun Dafa Association on the recommendation of the Clerk. Upon further review, we realize that the proclamation request was not in line with the Town’s Proclamation Policy, which states that proclamations will not be issued for matters of political controversy or religious beliefs for any organization.”

While the Town supports the stated values of the proclamation of inclusiveness and compassion, we do not endorse the organization itself or the full range of its practices. We acknowledge that sufficient due diligence was not undertaken when bringing this matter before Council and are committed to improving our review process going forward. We apologize if this action has offended any of our residents. This was certainly not the intention of staff or Council.”

It should be noted that the City of Kingston passed a similar motion on April 6, 2022 proclaiming  May 13 to be Falun Dafa day in Kingston, and has done so for several consecutive years, as have several other Canadian towns and cities.

Kingston has similar criteria to Napanee for proclamation requests. The proclamation policy reads in part that the request “shall be submitted by a representative of a non-profit group based in Kingston; will be issued only in respect of activities that support residents of the City of Kingston or related events taking place in Kingston (public awareness campaign); Must demonstrate respect and tolerance for all Kingston residents; Should foster a sense of community.”

Further, proclamations will not be issued for, “matters of political controversy, ideological or religious beliefs, or individual conviction; events or organizations with no direct relationship to the City of Kingston.”

A request for information on why this proclamation was passed has been made to the City of Kingston. This is a developing story with more to come.

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