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Mayor will 'white hat' Dalai Lama

October 1, 2009

September 29, 2009 - CBC News

The Dalai Lama will be in Calgary for a two-day visit to speak at a
University of Calgary conference and attend a public reception at the
Pengrowth Saddledome. The Dalai Lama will be in Calgary for a two-day visit
to speak at a University of Calgary conference and attend a public reception
at the Pengrowth Saddledome. (CBC)

Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier will give the Dalai Lama the city's iconic
white cowboy hat Wednesday, a move the city's Tibetan community said will
right a nearly 30-year-old wrong.

The Dalai Lama will be in Calgary for a two-day visit to speak at a
University of Calgary conference called NOW, which includes a public address
at the Pengrowth Saddledome.

The Dalai Lama was last in Calgary in 1980, when the city fathers declined
to present him with a white hat, saying he wasn't an official dignitary.
Calgary's Tibetan community was further annoyed when former mayor Al Duerr
presented then-president Jiang Zemin of China with a white hat in 1997.

On Wednesday morning, Bronconnier will present the cowboy hat to the Dalai
Lama at the airport.

Tashi Phuntsok, president of the Tibetan Community of Alberta, said it's
about time a Calgary mayor "white-hatted" the Buddhist leader.

"He has already received the Nobel Peace Prize and he has already received a
[U.S.] Congressional gold medal and he has already become an honorary
citizen of Canada. And Canadians, the majority of the public, want him to be
respected by our mayor in this way," he said.

Lynn Chazotsang, who is on the Dalai Lama welcoming committee, said a white
hat shouldn't be a political issue.

"Whether you give him hat or no hat, it doesn't matter. He would feel the
same love and compassion for everyone and he would not feel insulted," she
said.

Also Wednesday, Bronconnier will present a white hat to a former president
of South Africa, F.W. de Klerk, who is also in Calgary for the conference.
Security will be tight

People who purchased tickets for the Dalai Lama's speech received a recorded
telephone message about what will not be allowed into the Saddledome.

Food, beverages, and large cameras are prohibited. Attendees will be allowed
to carry just a small bag or purse which is subject to security scanning.

"There is no particular threat that's been identified except for the normal
threats that accompany people of this kind of high calibre, this kind of
high recognition," said Stephen Carter of Carter McRae Events on Tuesday.

Carter said there will be a small area for a bag check and food will be
available for purchase inside the venue.
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