To the two young men who came on the stage: I admire you and I appreciate you so much.Mifrah Abid, Anti-hate advocate
That is the sentiment resonating online as Canadians from different walks of life come together in sharing messages of support for the protesters who disrupted the 2023 Scotiabank Giller Prize event Monday night to criticize the financial banking giant’s investment in an Israeli arms firm, linking it to the loss of civilians in Gaza due to the current war between Israel and Hamas.
Rick Mercer was just interrupted hosting the Scotiabank Giller Prize live broadcast by protesters calling out Scotiabank for funding genocide in Palestine. They also called for a ceasefire.
Camera went off the stage, music started playing.
Then Rick thanked Scotiabank.
— Dave Gray-Donald (@dgrdon) November 14, 2023
The ceremony witnessed interruptions multiple times over the duration of the event with protesters initially hopping on stage carrying signs reading “Scotiabank Funds Genocide,” followed by another disruption later when Sarah Bernstein was announced winner of the $100,000 award.
The demonstrators shouted anti-Israel slogans before being escorted out and detained by Toronto Police.
One of the Giller Prize gala protesters is a dedicated member of the emergent Palestinian protest circuit.
They have interacted with my videographer outside the Israeli consulate, Scotia Plaza, and L3Harris Technologies.#cdnpoli #Toronto #Palestine #Israel #Gaza https://t.co/AE2pQL9KmV pic.twitter.com/ldQdEioAfr
— Caryma Sa'd - Lawyer + Political Satirist (@CarymaRules) November 14, 2023
Some reports from late Monday night allege that the demonstrators were arrested by police for a couple of hours before being released eventually.
— hussan (@hussansk) November 14, 2023
However, Toronto Police confirmed Tuesday three people aged between 23 and 25 were arrested on-scene and later charged with obstructing property and allegedly using forged documents to enter the invitation-only literary event at the Four Seasons Hotel.
— Toronto Police (@TorontoPolice) November 14, 2023
NEW: Three people face interrupt lawful enjoyment and forgery charges after pro-Palestine protestors repeatedly interrupted last night's Giller Prize ceremony in Toronto.
Evan Curle, 25, Maysam Abu Khreibeh, 25 &
Fatima Hussain, 23, all of Toronto, were charged pic.twitter.com/EqP7kKhBUT
— 𝘽𝙧𝙮𝙖𝙣 𝙋𝙖𝙨𝙨𝙞𝙛𝙞𝙪𝙢𝙚 (@BryanPassifiume) November 14, 2023
Canadians call out writers and authors in audience for silence
The revolting moment featuring supporters of Palestine interrupting the ceremony was captured and shared widely online with many applauding the efforts of the protesters to shine a light on Scotiabank’s significant investment in Elbit Systems, an Israeli weapons producer that is facing the heat due to the use of its technology in the occupied West Bank.
To the two young men who came on the stage: I admire you and I appreciate you so much.
You have shown more moral courage than most of us today.
The course of history is often changed by countless unsung heroes. https://t.co/Jxs3GEDEP8
— Mifrah Abid (@AcrossHerTable) November 14, 2023
Many other users who shared the sentiment joined calls to boycott Scotiabank.
— Danial Gilmutdinov (@DGilmutdin51367) November 14, 2023
Thank you for spreading the awareness for Canadians here. #BoycottScotiaBank
— Dalia Khashan (@KhashanDalia) November 14, 2023
Didn’t know this but thanks for this information. Will have to reconsider where I bank.
— Kwesi Johnson (@KwesiJohnson) November 14, 2023
Several social media users could not help but notice the silence in the room when the protesters jumped on stage and called out the “well-heeled literati” for booing them instead.
“Were the well-heeled literati booing at the protestors, or Israeli genocide?” posted Political ecologist Laurie Adkin on X.
“The writers in this room who stayed silent should be ashamed,” posted a fellow writer.
Countless other writers, editors and authors joined the criticism of those sitting in the crowd for silently watching on as the protesters were being escorted and then arrested by the police.
“As an Indigenous woman who worked in publishing and the Canlit scene, it is absolutely not shocking that there was no support from the audience, and rather boos to cover up the protestors msg. #canlit loves the idea of marginalized voices in theory and never ever in practice,” posted Nickita.
"Worst part of this is all these celebrated authors sitting silently. As silent as they presumably have been during this whole genocide.
The people who disrupted this event were detained by police for hours. Power and respect to them, may disruptions multiply. Free Palestine," wrote Canadian activist and writer on X.
Another writer called out “Canada’s prize culture” while taking a swipe at everyone who sat silently in the room.
Extra disappointed in Rick Mercer. Shame on everyone silent in the room. Gotta love Canada’s prize culture. Diversity in the sheets (of paper), complicit in the streets. https://t.co/Clvp9KESik
— Samantha keyword smart Jones (@jones_yyc) November 14, 2023
Here was the scene at the Gillers last night.
This is an example of effective, peaceful protest at an arts event. I did not know about sponsor Scotiabank's investment in this arms manufacturer many pension funds and banks do not touch and have been inspired to learn more. https://t.co/JKWPltyu2L
— J. Kelly Nestruck (@nestruck) November 14, 2023
— Farzana Doctor 📖🔥 (she/her) (@farzanadoctor) November 14, 2023
Writer Sarah Hagi used their post to criticize those booing, asking them to step in the shoes of those caught up in the tragedy unfolding in Gaza.
the people booing…first of all, imagine being on the side of a bank. second of all grow up, it’s an awards show for books at least something exciting is happening https://t.co/xBU3Qyew21
— sarah hagi (@KindaHagi) November 14, 2023
Adding to the conversation, University of Guelph professor Paul Barrett shared a pretty nuanced critique, taking aim at CanLit and the “mediocre talent” attending the event.
Hearing Giller authors squee over the humanizing power of literature just before they ignore the call for Palestinians to be treated as human beings is peak CanLit. A herd of mediocre talents staring silently into their drinks, desperate for a seat at The Table. https://t.co/lcPeMPFrnx
— Paul Barrett (@paul_barrett) November 14, 2023
Was Giller Prize award ceremony best place for a protest?
However, some Canadians did not see much point in disrupting a literary award function and considered it to “ruin a moment” that many talented authors had been looking forward to.
Way to ruin a moment authors have been working towards there entire life. Shameless.
— Xxfg (@TorontofcXxfg) November 14, 2023
I support people's right to protest. I don't support they way they go about it. There is framework around what is acceptable. This was not.
— BeardedNerd (@Bearded_N3rd) November 14, 2023
Additionally, Executive Director of the Giller Prize Elana Rabinovitch, issued a statement saying the protesters showed “disrespect to Canadian authors, and their literary achievements that were made throughout the year,” according to the Canadian Press.
Rick Mercer faced scrutiny for tearing down the signs used by protesters
Canadian comedian and TV personality Rick Mercer, who can be seen being interrupted while hosting the event and in return tearing down the slogans held by the protesters, was specifically called out for not using the stage to draw attention to the immediate need for a ceasefire in Gaza.
BREAKING: Anti-Israeli protesters interrupt the live ceremony of tonight's @GillerPrize, which honours the best in Canadian literature. Audience boos in response and police escorted protesters out. pic.twitter.com/13tBtunqk0
— Neil Herland (@NEWSneil) November 14, 2023
Margaret Atwood, Rick Mercer, Vincent Lam + others sat in silence while @CBCNews cut the broadcast to prevent ppl from seeing brave protesters call out SB’s genocidal investments.
Prize winner Sarah Bernstein made no acknowledgement as protesters were violently detained for hrs. https://t.co/NNCdsxb1BD
— hailey yasmeen - free palestine 🇵🇸 (@haildash) November 14, 2023
I know the show must go on, but not one person said one word about all the craziness going on in the world right now. I would’ve liked to have seen Rick Mercer say you know we’ve got a lot of hurt going on the world but we’re here tonight to give out a prize. Crickets!!!
— I Am 💙 (@purplevivi) November 14, 2023
Was that supposed to make sense to anyone?
Rick Mercer tried to rip the protestors sign while making his money off pretending to be some progressive working class hero.
Scotiabank is fair game.
— Jessa 🎙️🌹 (@Jessa_McLean) November 14, 2023
The Giller Prize is sponsored by one of the largest profiteers in genocide, Scotiabank, which has a $500 million investment in Israeli war firm Elbit. CanLit community was silent when this was protested last night. CBC cut away and faux progressive Rick Mercer was silent https://t.co/LzPwRGVWOj
— Matthew Behrens (@MatthewBehren11) November 14, 2023
The incident took place on the same night when veteran singing trio, the Bearhead Sisters, took centre stage at the Oilers game in Edmonton’s Rogers Place arena, singing their hearts out to a special rendition of the Canadian national anthem while holding Keffiyeh in solidarity with Palestine.
The Indigenous music group is being applauded over the internet for showing courage and standing for the cause of Palestinians, lives of whom continue to devalue as the war between Hamas and Israel intensifies in the Middle East.
Both the events from Monday night, and the consequent reaction from Canadians, hints clearly at a divided demographic over the ongoing conflict. However, the nation remains united in their calls for a ceasefire to end the slaughtering of lives and promote peace in the region.