The Snohomish County Public Defender Association gathered at least 100 people to march through north Everett on Monday, June 8, 2020 in Everett, Wa. Attorneys and supporters marched with the Black Lives Matter movement to call attention to George Floyd’s death, who was killed while in police custody in Minnesota a couple of weeks ago.(Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Artists pull out of Surrey’s virtual Canada Day event as anti-racism petition grows

Thousands of signatures urge city to denounce racism against Black and Indigenous people

More acts continue to back out of Surrey’s virtual Canada Day celebrations as calls grow for the city to take a stronger stance in denouncing racism against Black and Indigenous people.

Ryan Guldemond, one of the founding members of Vancouver-based band Mother Mother, pulled out from the celebration Thursday, as has Toronto-based band called The Beaches and Vancouver-based Said the Whale. Vancouver artist Daniel Wesley also announced Thursday that he has decided to not perform on July 1 as well.

A petition, started by Surrey-based 5X Festival and African Heritage Festival of Music and Dance about a week ago, is urging the City of Surrey “to show solidarity with Black and Indigenous communities by making a public statement committing to anti-racism in our city.”

A Facebook post from Mother Mother on Thursday (June 18), states that Guldemond was scheduled to perform for the July 1 event. But, “it has been brought to our attention that despite a petition from the community with over 3000 signatures, the City of Surrey’s leaders have not publicly committed to dismantling racism and have been unwilling to engage in a dialogue with the organizers of the petition.

“In solidarity with that community, we have decided to step down from the Canada Day celebration.”

The Beaches also used social media to announce Thursday that it wouldn’t be performing in Surrey’s virtual celebration.

Said the Whale stated it has sent a letter to mayor and council “asking that they please listen to and respect the wishes of their community,” but as of Thursday afternoon the band hadn’t yet heard back.

Wesley said that while he was “excited to be included with some of the best artists in BC,” it had been brought to his attention that Surrey “has yet to make an appropriate stong public commitment against racism.”

The petition adds that a public statement might “Acknowledge that anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism exist in the City; Acknowledge that civic institutions have tacitly perpetuated systematic racism; Clarify what percentage of the executive leadership of the City is diverse, and how that can change; Commit to actively dismantling systemic racism, discrimination and intolerance from our systems; Commit to a policy ensuring that Surrey is an inclusive and equitable place for Black and Indigenous and POC communities.”

As of Friday morning, the petition has received 3,977 signatures.

View this post on Instagram

Hey @thecityofsurrey, thanks for the response yesterday. We're glad to be in dialogue. We too agree that Surrey's cultural diversity is absolutely one of its fortifying pillars, however we were hoping to get a little deeper into the topic at hand. There is a global movement happening around us and unfortunately your statement just doesn't get the the heart of the conversation. We're looking to hear your thoughts and understand what does & will the City do to stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter? How will more Black voices be brought to the table? Why do we see so few Black people in positions of leadership? What does and will the City do to actively dismantle systemic racism, discrimination and intolerance from our systems? What is the City's policy on ensuring that Surrey is an inclusive and equitable place for Black and Indigenous communities? Let's keep the conversation going @thecityofsurrey. If you're also interested in learning about @thecityofsurreys stance on these and similar topics let them know with a tag below.

A post shared by 5X Festival (@5xfest) on

Following protests around the world in response to the death of George Floyd, who died while being restrained by police in Minneapolis, 5X Festival had put a call out earlier on June 8 for the city to denounce racism as governments, local- and senior-level, in B.C. and elsewhere posted about steps being taken to be actively anti-racist.

On June 8, the City of Surrey put out a statement from Mayor Doug McCallum: “Surrey is a city that has been built and strengthened by its diversity. Racism, discrimination, and intolerance have no place in our city, our province or our country. Surrey takes tremendous pride in our cultural diversity and the inclusion and respect we show one another every day.”

The Now-Leader is reaching out to the City of Surrey for comment.

A 24-page report made public Tuesday stated action is needed to tackle “everyday and systemic anti-Indigenous racism in Surrey.”

READ ALSO: Acts of racism ‘part of the lived experience of urban Indigenous peoples in Surrey’: report, June 17, 2020

The report states the rate of Indigenous child and youth poverty in Surrey is among the highest in Western Canada.

Indigenous-Surrey residents reported that they are repeatedly perceived as “knowing nothing”, “on welfare”, “lazy”, “violent”, and “not good mothers,” according to the report, a document that shares their “painful and common experiences.

More to come.

READ ALSO: ‘If we are quiet, we aren’t changing the situation,’ Surrey teacher says of racism he’s faced, June 13, 2020

READ ALSO: ‘Racism, it destroys your soul’: Surrey man looks to youth for change, June 6, 2020

– With files from Tom Zillich



lauren.collins@surreynowleader.com

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