Trudeau cancels appearance at Surrey fundraiser over protest-related safety concerns

·3 min read
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits the Guru Nanak Food Bank in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday.  (Rich Lam/Canadian Press - image credit)
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits the Guru Nanak Food Bank in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday. (Rich Lam/Canadian Press - image credit)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cancelled plans to attend a Liberal party fundraising dinner in Surrey on Tuesday evening as a result of safety concerns over a large gathering of protesters outside the event.

Protesters allegedly harassed and hurled racial slurs at attendees and volunteers, many of whom were South Asian, according to Surrey Centre MP Randeep Sarai.

The fundraiser was being held at Aria banquet hall.

Sarai says that a group of protesters were stationed outside the front gates of the event, eventually growing to around 100 people.

"They just started swearing, yelling, screaming at anyone that was going through," said Sarai.

"We had a lot of South Asian volunteers… that were harassed, sworn at, called towel head, rag head, you're all immigrants."

He says it's unclear what the group was actually protesting.

Surrey RCMP confirmed in a statement that there were several vehicles and larger trucks towing trailers that were travelling "in a convoy style loop around the roadway."

"Due to 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," said Cpl. Vanessa Munn.

Trudeau did not enter the building and spoke to a crowd for about three minutes by Zoom instead of making a speech in person. Trudeau said he would return to see his supporters in Surrey in the future.

WATCH | Justin Trudeau talk about the unruly crowd and its impact on free speech:

Wednesday, at an event in Saskatoon, Trudeau addressed what happened at the fundraiser in Surrey, adding that nobody should be intimidated for supporting a political party.

"The safety of Canadians choosing to make their voices heard in politics should never be in question as it was last night," he said.

"The fundamental freedoms we have as a country, and we enjoy as Canadians, need to be defended, need to be protected."

Protesters swore at Prime Minister

Protesters used expletives as they chanted against Trudeau and honked horns outside the convention centre. About half a dozen RCMP officers stood by watching the crowd.

Sarai says the protesters turned the event into a hostile environment.

"This is not reflective of Surrey at all," he said.

"Surrey is a very diverse city, a very friendly city, a very welcoming city."

And while he respects the public's right to protest, he says "you should never spew hate and use the vulgarity that was being used there."

Protests against party leaders

Earlier this month, police began investigating after a video circulated on social media showed people hurling verbal abuse at NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh during a protest in Peterborough, Ont.

The federal NDP leader had dropped by the campaign office of an Ontario NDP candidate running in the provincial election.

A video shows Singh encountering protesters as he left the campaign office, and they can be heard shouting expletives at him and calling him a "traitor"' as he gets inside a vehicle.

Singh later told reporters he found the experience "intense, threatening [and] insulting"' but that he is more worried about what it means for politics in general.

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