OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's day of whistle stops in the Ottawa area ended early Friday as anti-Liberal protesters gathered outside a brewery before he arrived.
Following uneventful stops in Gatineau Park in Quebec and two Ottawa suburbs earlier in the day, Trudeau was on his way to the Brasserie Étienne Brûlé Brewery in Embrun, Ont., about 30 minutes east of Ottawa. The event was called off before he arrived.
About a dozen protesters gathered across the street from the brewery, including one who was carrying a flag emblazoned with a profanity directed at Trudeau, and another who was recording the establishment on their phone.
RCMP officers in plain clothes were posted outside.
The brewery itself was packed, both inside and on the patios. Three of those patrons, seated on the back patio, were asked to leave by a brewery employee. One of them, a woman, approached RCMP officers appearing to briefly argue with them before walking away.
The Prime Minister's Office said in a statement that while the event had to "unfortunately" be cancelled, the prime minister looks forward to being back soon.
Government sources confirmed the presence of the apparent convoy supporters was behind the cancellation. The presence of a large crowd of people inside the restaurant added to the risk in the event of any escalation.
It is the second time in less than two months Trudeau was forced to pull out of a planned appearance because of the presence of people espousing similar views as the "freedom convoy" protesters who blockaded downtown Ottawa for three weeks last winter.
On May 24, more than 100 protesters crowded outside the gates of a banquet hall in Surrey, B.C., one carrying a makeshift gallows with a noose, and Trudeau Treason written on it. Trudeau opted to address the fundraising event virtually.
Trudeau has been dogged by protesters regularly since the last federal election. One election stop in Bolton, Ont., was cancelled due the presence of a large crowd of protesters.
At a later event in London, Ont., a handful of gravel was thrown at him as he boarded his tour bus. One man was later charged with assault with a weapon.
That man was also arrested in February in Ottawa during the convoy protests.
The protesters are largely rallying against COVID-19 restrictions, including vaccine mandates and mask requirements, but some have also demanded Trudeau resign or be thrown out of office.
Before Embrun's event Friday the big talk of Trudeau's day was his new short hair cut — a man at an ice cream shot in the Ottawa suburb of Orleans was one of many who noticed the shorn locks and made a comment.
Trudeau also visited a family's home in Ottawa to discuss a "climate action incentive" payment that Canadians received from the federal government. Some neighbours gathered as curious onlookers, but there were no protesters visible there.
Earlier in the year, a “Freedom Convoy” base camp was set up in Embrun during the blockades that seized Ottawa for three weeks.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 15, 2022.
Erika Ibrahim, The Canadian Press