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Protestors wave flags and sing as police line the entrance to the Art Gallery of Ontario, where a cancelled event for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni was to take place, in Toronto, on March 2.Cole Burston/The Canadian Press

Toronto Police are reviewing the events of a protest over the weekend that led to the cancellation of a dinner scheduled to be held by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for the visiting leader of Italy.

Mr. Trudeau and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni were meant to attend a reception at the Art Gallery of Ontario in downtown Toronto on Saturday evening, after a day of meetings between the leaders.

The event was called off abruptly after several hundred pro-Palestinian protesters gathered outside the venue, blocking doorways and making it difficult for guests to enter.

Toronto Police Service (TPS) spokesperson Stephanie Sayer said there were no arrests or reported injuries. But she said that police are reviewing the events at the AGO.

“If it’s determined that illegal activity occurred, charges can be laid at a later date,” she said in a statement.

Ms. Sayer said Toronto police had been in contact with the Prime Minister’s security team, and were prepared to provide secure access to the AGO for the leaders.

“Ultimately, the Prime Minister’s team decided not to proceed. It was not at TPS’s recommendation that the event be cancelled, and many guests were already inside.”

Charlotte Hibbard, a spokesperson for the RCMP, which handles the Prime Minister’s security, said it was not safe to move Mr. Trudeau and Ms. Meloni into the building because of several factors, “including the size and volatile nature of the crowds at the entrances to the venue.”

“Toronto Police Service and the RCMP were mobilized to make the area safe for the Prime Ministers to enter, but an estimate of how long it would take to make the entrances safe and accessible … could not be guaranteed before the end of the short event,” she said in a statement.

According to witnesses and video recordings, the demonstrators held placards and chanted slogans criticizing Israel’s invasion of Gaza and Canada’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war. Toronto police said there were approximately 400 protesters.

Dozens of invited guests, including International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen and other elected officials, had difficulty getting into the building. Some entered the AGO through a side entrance under police escort.

The disruption marked a tumultuous ending to an otherwise cordial day of meetings in Toronto, during which Mr. Trudeau and Ms. Meloni said they agreed to establish the Canada-Italy Roadmap for Enhanced Co-operation.

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, climate change, economic growth, and research and innovation, including artificial intelligence.

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

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

Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association, was a guest at the planned reception on Saturday evening. He said that he spent around an hour waiting across the road from the art gallery with a group of around 50 other guests.

He said they were eventually ushered through a narrow side door, as police held back protesters. Once inside the building, the guests were told not to leave, until after the event was cancelled around 8 p.m.

“I was a little bit disappointed that these types of protests continue to outmanoeuvre police in this city,” Mr. Volpe said in an interview.

“Protesting is central to our democracy,” he said. But he added that disrupting community events unrelated to the issue demonstrators are protesting “absolutely guarantees no sympathy.”

With reports from The Canadian Press

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