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Jane Taber

Why Gail Shea is used to getting pie in her face Add to ...

Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea has taken pies in the face before for good causes. She's also thrown them. But the pie that was pushed into her face earlier this week was less friendly than the ones aimed at raising money for community events in her small province of Prince Edward Island.

Here's what happened: Ms. Shea was just about to begin delivering a speech at the Canada Centre for Inland Waters in Burlington, Ont., when she saw a shadow of a figure coming toward her. She's not very tall. She thought someone was approaching to adjust the microphone - it happens all the time to her.

"But then, all of a sudden this thing was in my face and for a second or two I was in shock [thinking]'What's happened here?' But it didn't take me long to figure out what had taken place," she told The Globe today.

A woman representing the animal-rights group PETA stands accused of putting a tofu-cream pie squarely in the minister's face to protest against the seal hunt. The 37-year-old New Yorker, Emily McCoy, was taken into custody and charged with assault.

Ms. Shea's has heard reports suggesting Ms. McCoy is the same woman who had come to PEI to "disrupt a meeting that she thought I was going to be at."

The Fisheries Minister, who has a thick skin and handles herself with grace, says she will likely now be on her guard a little bit more.

"Well, you know politics is not a calling for the faint of heart," Ms. Shea said. "And you certainly learn to accept opposing opinions and verbal attacks but physical assault crosses the line.

"It will be a sad day when Canada is not a safe place to be a politician. While this was some type of cream and I wasn't injured, however, it could have been something more serious."

Interestingly, while the PETA protester received headlines, Ms. Shea says this incident only strengthens her "resolve to support the seal hunt and our northern and coastal communities that depend on the hunt for part of their annual income."

And she thanks Newfoundland Liberal MP Gerry Byrne for his support. But she doesn't want to comment on his call yesterday for the government to investigate whether PETA is acting as a terrorist organization because it "coaches or conducts criminal behaviour to impose a political agenda."

Ms. Shea adds that it's "disappointing that groups resort to these types of tactics." Rather, they should come to her office, sit down, and have a chat about the issue, she says.

(File photo: Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

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