People shocked and outraged at Cirque du Soleil for flying Russian flag in Toronto

Apr 11 2023, 5:51 pm

Cirque du Soleil returned to Toronto this week with the April 7 arrival of its KOOZA show.

For the first time, the Canadian entertainment company is hosting its big top on the site of the former Mr. Christie’s Factory in Etobicoke, but some neighbourhood residents are alarmed by one aspect of the production.

The big top standing on the former factory site features a collection of flags at its entrance, including the flag of the Russian Federation — a symbol that has triggered many in the community, an area home to a concentration of Ukrainian diaspora.

An area resident, Maria Vasserman, tells blogTO, “I live in Mimico (Humber Bay Shores) – a very Ukrainian community. Recently, Cirque du Soleil put up its tents and displayed a Russian flag on top of it.”

“This triggers many community members, including those who had to flee from war just recently. They feared waking up and seeing the Russian flag above their heads. Now they see it, only in Canada.”

Similar comments have been posted to other social media platforms, calling out Cirque du Soleil for its inclusion of the Russian flag, a move the entertainment company vigorously defends.

Vasserman says that, along with other community members, she “contacted Cirque du Soleil to explain the situation,” but explains that she was frustrated by the defensive response.

She provided a statement issued by Cirque du Soleil in response to community concerns, which reads, “Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group is a global entertainment company that performs in over 90 countries in front of diverse audiences and employs an international cast of artists from over 70 countries.

“As a creative company, we are non-political, and we deeply believe in open-mindedness, diversity, inclusion, and respect. These values guide us in our interactions with our artists, employees, partners, and fans, and are reflected in all our productions. Art has no geographical boundaries. Through our shows, our goal is always to inspire the local population where we perform.

“We are very sorry if you have seen this as anything other than a celebration to highlight the unique and inclusive atmosphere the organization is known for.”

The statement goes on to say that “the Russian-born artists whom we employ are not officials of their government.”

“Therefore, in the vision of our mission to invoke the imagination, provoke the senses, and evoke the emotions of people around the world, including all artists —which is the very core of our existence— Russian-born artists are a part of our family and will always be allowed and welcomed to perform on our shows.”

“They keep claiming that they’re not siding with the enemy and are staying away from politics,” says Vasserman.

“Unfortunately, this represents siding with Russia,” she continued, adding, “I think something needs to be done.”

Jack LandauJack Landau

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