Pro-Palestinian protesters disrupt event in Toronto involving leaders of Canada and Italy

Entrances to the Art Gallery of Ontario were blocked by pro-Palestinian demonstrators forcing the cancellation of a reception hosted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. Caryn Ceolin reports.

By Sammy Hudes, The Canadian Press

A dinner hosted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in honour of his Italian counterpart had to be cancelled this evening after pro-Palestinian demonstrators blocked entrances to the venue where it was set to take place. 

Trudeau’s office confirmed neither he nor Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni were able to enter the Art Gallery of Ontario, which briefly went into lockdown as demonstrators shouting pro-Palestinian slogans packed the area where would-be guests were awaiting admission.

They included International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen, who was unable to enter the gallery through the front entrance and walked two blocks while flanked by police and protesters chanting ‘shame, shame’ before he ducked into a nearby police station.

Minister of International Development Ahmed Hussen surrounded by police and pro-Palestinian protesters in downtown Toronto on March 2, 2024. CITYNEWS/Khaled Mansour

The disruption marked a tumultuous ending 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.

The two prime ministers issued a joint statement saying their agreement will further deepen their countries’ political, economic and strategic ties by setting out plans to collaborate over the next three to five years in priority areas.

Those include energy security and the shift to a sustainable energy future, climate change and biodiversity, migration, sustainable economic growth, and research and innovation, including artificial intelligence.

The two G-7 members plan to review progress on the development of the roadmap at a meeting this June in Italy.

Speaking in front of reporters before heading behind closed doors on Saturday morning, Trudeau commended Meloni’s leadership as Italy presides over this year’s G7 summit, adding he is looking forward to working with her to set up Canada’s term as host in 2025.

Trudeau said Canada and Italy are “aligned on so many things” and have a “very deep and growing economic relationship.”

The two got into a public spat last year after Trudeau criticized Italy’s stance on LGBTQ2S+ issues in a meeting with Meloni at the G7 leaders’ summit. He was reacting to her government’s move to limit the recognition of parental rights to only the biological parent in families with same-sex parents.

Meloni later rejected the criticism and said Trudeau had fallen victim to fake news.

On Saturday, Meloni touted a number of her priorities leading the G7, including artificial intelligence, the role of the Indo-Pacific and respecting the international rule-based order.

She also highlighted support for Ukraine and “this very difficult Middle East crisis,” where she said it’s important to avoid escalation.

“We are beginning a new year of our relationship trying to enhance our cooperation and I think there are many, many topics on which we can do that,” Meloni said.

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