Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cancelled an appearance at a Surrey fundraising event at Aria Banquet Hall this past week, after protesters outside “allegedly harassed and hurled racial slurs at attendees and volunteers.” 

Videos on social media show protesters outside the event chanting, “you are terrorists, we are patriots.” 

According to a statement from Surrey RCMP, on May 24, at approximately 4:40 p.m., “there was a small group of protestors outside of the banquet hall gates. The number of protestors continued to grow in size and included with the protest were several cars, larger trucks, and vehicles towing trailers that were travelling in a convoy style loop around the roadway.”

“Due the size and composition of the protest group and for the safety of everyone in attendance, a decision was made that it was not safe for the Prime Minister to attend the location.”

Police say they remained on site to ensure the safety of all parties involved.  

Another man who was present at the protests posted a picture of himself online with a noose that read “Trudeau 4 Treason.”

In a statement to 5XPress, Surrey-Newton MP Sukh Dhaliwal called the protests “an exercise in spreading hate.”

"I am strongly in support of the right to protest. It is a fundamental pillar of Canada's democracy. But what happened at the event with Prime Minister Trudeau was not a protest but rather an exercise in spreading hate,” reads the statement.

“The racial epithets directed towards guests of the event was one of the most blatant examples of racism I've ever witnessed in Surrey. This is not the city where I raised my family and spent the past 30 years living in. I remain disturbed by seeing such vile sentiments expressed so openly." 

The harassment of attendees in Surrey also highlights an alarming trend of increasingly aggressive alt-right protesters targeting both politicians and racialized folks across the country.

Just two weeks ago, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh was verbally harassed while in Peterborough, Ontario visiting the office of another NDP candidate.

Protesters waited outside for an hour as Singh met with supporters inside and then hurled insults at him as he left in a vehicle that was waiting for him out front. From telling him to “go die,” to swearing, yelling and flipping him off.

In a statement, Singh said “when hate is given space to grow, it spreads like wildfire.” He emphasized the urgent need to address this rising threat in Canada.

A report released last year highlights how right-wing extremism has been on the rise during the pandemic, and racist sentiments shared at protests across the country, as well as during the trucker’s convoy, which saw Confederate flags and Nazi symbols flying alongside Canadian flags.

According to one of the author’s of the report, “instances of violence motivated by right-wing extremism have risen 250 per cent." 

“Freedom” protesters and their supposed patriotism and nationalism are inextricably linked to white supremacist ideologies.

Far right extremism is defined by The Organization for the Prevention of Violence as “a loose movement, animated by a racially, ethnically, and sexually defined nationalism. This nationalism is typically framed in terms of White power, and is grounded in xenophobic and exclusionary understandings of the perceived threats posed by such groups as non-Whites, Jews, immigrants, homosexuals and feminists.”

The intersection between anti-government views and the alt-right, which is demonstrated by the rising animosity and aggression being expressed towards politicians, was clearly a factor in the Surrey protests this week.

Those who proudly laud themselves as "patriots," are also more often than not displaying their patriotism in the form of racism and hatred.

Even a city as diverse as Surrey is not immune to these growing sentiments, showing us why it is more important than ever to condemn racism and hatred everywhere it rears its ugly head.

About the author

Rumneek Johal

Rumneek is a journalist, host and speaker. She is currently the BC Reporter at Press Progress where she focuses on systemic inequality, workers and communities, as well as racism and far-right extremism. Her previous work centers on asking tough questions within her community, starting conversation and chipping away at the status quo. Other focus areas for her work include the South Asian community, arts and culture, pop culture, and more. She is a proud Punjabi woman from Surrey, BC.

More by Rumneek Johal
5X Press is a forum for opinions, conversations, & experiences, powered by South Asian youth. The views expressed here are not representative of those of 5X Festival.