Fenella Sung of Canadian Friends of Hong Kong speaks to a protest rally outside the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention, Vancouver, Sept. 25, 2019. Behind her is Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West (brown coat) and Coun. Steve Darling. (Katya Slepian/Black Press)

Fenella Sung of Canadian Friends of Hong Kong speaks to a protest rally outside the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention, Vancouver, Sept. 25, 2019. Behind her is Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West (brown coat) and Coun. Steve Darling. (Katya Slepian/Black Press)

B.C. municipal group bans foreign sponsorship at convention

China’s reception sparked protests after Canadians arrested

The Union of B.C. Municipalities executive has responded to protests against China’s sponsorship of a reception for mayors and councillors, banning foreign sponsorships for future conventions.

The issue came to a head at the UBCM’s September convention in Vancouver, where some mayors attended and a group called Canadian Friends of Hong Kong staged a demonstration at the China reception. The event has been sponsored for several years, with the Chinese government paying $6,000 for permission to invite 2019 delegates for snacks, drinks and speeches by Chinese consular officials about the China-Canada relationship.

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“Foreign governments will not be permitted to sponsor/finance any UBCM convention events such as receptions and other networking opportunities,” the UBCM said in a statement, following a review of its financing and sponsorship.

Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West delivered boxes of doughnuts to the door of the Chinese reception on Sept. 25, with the names and photos of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, two Canadians who remain in Chinese custody on suspicion of espionage. Their arrests were widely seen as a reaction to the arrest of Chinese technology executive Meng Wanzhou at Vancouver airport in December 2018.

The UBCM executive decided to continue accepting sponsorships from corporations and unions to “sponsor any element” of the annual convention, which rotates between Vancouver, Victoria and Whistler. A highlight of each convention is a lavish reception sponsored by the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents municipal employees across B.C.


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