Toronto police review protest that led to cancellation of PM’s reception

Toronto Police investigators are reviewing whether illegal activity occurred during a weekend protest that led to the cancellation of a reception hosted by the prime minister for a visiting G7 leader, police said Sunday.

Saturday night’s event at the Art Gallery of Ontario was intended to cap a day of meetings between Justin Trudeau and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in Toronto, but was abruptly canceled after protesters shouting pro-Palestinian slogans blocked the entrances to the building and prevented many attendees from entering.

Trudeau’s office said Saturday that neither he nor Meloni were able to enter the venue, which was briefly closed. International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen was seen walking two blocks with a police escort until he found an unoccupied entrance.

Toronto Police Service spokesperson Stephanie Sayer said police were in contact with the prime minister’s security team, who were told officers were prepared to provide safe access to the building for Trudeau.

He said Toronto police did not recommend canceling the event.

“In the end, the Prime Minister’s team decided not to proceed,” Sayer said in a statement.

“It was not at the recommendation of TPS that the event was canceled, and many guests were already inside.”

Sayer said approximately 400 protesters gathered outside the AGO. He said there were no injuries and no arrests, although police continue to investigate what happened.

“We are reviewing the events of last night and if it is determined that illegal activity occurred, charges may be filed at a later date,” he said.

The Prime Minister’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday.

The protesters, who criticized the federal government’s handling of the war between Israel and Hamas, chanted slogans such as “Justin Trudeau, you are a liar” and called it “Justin genocide.” Would-be attendees confronted protesters, with their driveways blocked, but police later escorted some to the building’s entrance.

Security at the event also prevented some journalists from entering.

The interruption marked a tumultuous end to an otherwise cordial day of meetings in Toronto, during which Trudeau and Meloni said they agreed to establish the Canada-Italy Roadmap for Enhanced Cooperation.

Liberal MP Marco Mendicino called on police “to enforce the law” following Saturday’s protest, calling protesters anti-Semitic.

“The location was not safe. And that was their goal. They don’t want their fellow Canadians to feel safe,” he said in a series of posts on X, formerly Twitter.

“If you break the law, you should be arrested, charged and prosecuted… These thugs think they won a victory last night, but all they did was lose public support and embarrass themselves. It’s time for the madness to end.”

Deborah Lyons, Canada’s special envoy to combat anti-Semitism, said in an

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2024.

— With files from Alessia Passafiume in Toronto


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