A marching band the Canadian Tulip Festival banned from performing at its opening ceremonies because members are Falun Gong practitioners has accepted an apology from organizers.


“We’re glad to see they have come forward with an apology,” said Tian Guo Marching Band representative Lucy Zhou. “We have no grudge towards them and we’re looking forward to performing on Sunday.”


In its official apology released yesterday, organizers conceded the issue had been mishandled. “Comments made on behalf of the festival by others had resulted in a misperception of the festival’s position and an understandable feeling of grievance by band members," the statement read.


The furor began when the band, which had been booked by the festival to play O Canada and Maple Leaf Forever at the opening ceremonies, was told by organizers it could not go on because members belonged to Falun Gong.


The band had arrived in uniforms decorated with Falun Gong symbols and banners at an event that included Chinese embassy officials. But band members insisted they were not there to embarrass the officials and demanded an apology and a chance to perform at the festival, claiming they were the victims of discrimination. They accused the festival of caving to pressure from Chinese embassy officials who had been present at the ceremonies.

Following the incident, festival marketing director Doug Little defended the decision to pull the plug on the performance, charging the band had misrepresented itself in its festival application.

But after meeting over the weekend, the festival yesterday issued a media release reinstating the band into the program, with apologies from Little, festival chairman David Luxton and president Teri Kirk.

“We certainly support the right of religious groups to bring forward diverse views. Unfortunately, the festival’s decision was made in haste in the moments before the official opening,” said Kirk. “We are pleased to have had the opportunity to meet with band members and to re-extend a warm invitation to the band to perform at this year’s festival.”

The band will perform this Sunday at 1 p.m. at Dow’s Lake.