‘Unsung heroes’: Canadians commend pro-Palestine protesters for interrupting Giller Prize, call out silent writers in audience

'Scotiabank funds genocide': Protesters interrupting the Giller Prize ceremony were met with a silent audience, but social support abound

‘Unsung heroes’: Canadians commend pro-Palestine protesters for interrupting Giller Prize, call out silent writers in audience

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.

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.

Some reports from late Monday night allege that the demonstrators were arrested by police for a couple of hours before being released eventually.

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.

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.

Many other users who shared the sentiment joined calls to boycott Scotiabank.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.