Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland was physically blocked from entering Halifax City Hall on Wednesday by demonstrators supporting the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in northern B.C.
Freeland was scheduled to meet with Halifax Mayor Mike Savage, but was confronted by several demonstrators who blocked her entrance to City Hall. She was eventually able to squeeze through the doors.
“I absolutely respect the right of Canadians across the country to exercise their right to peaceful protest,” Freeland told reporters. “The protesters did express the view that they wanted to prevent me from having this meeting with the mayor and his team.
Freeland added that it’s important for all people in Canada to “go about their legitimate and rightful business, even as other Canadians are expressing their right to peaceful protest.”
“Having that balance, having that mutual respect of each other is very important,” she said.
Earlier in the day, the deputy prime minister met with Nova Scotia premier Stephen McNeil at One Government Place, where she was also met by about 30 demonstrators.
Prior to her meeting with Savage, demonstrators created a human wall in front of City Hall to block Freeland from entering.
Freeland said this was the first time she was physically blocked from a meeting.
“This is the first time that people have touched me physically, and physically tried to prevent me from doing something,” she said.
“I really respect the fact that Canadians are politically engaged … but it is important for all of us, whether we are peacefully protesting or whatever we are doing, to respect the rights of our fellow Canadians.”
When asked if she was injured or violated when trying to enter City Hall, Freeland said she was unharmed.
“I’m fine. I’m pretty tough.”
Outside of the meeting, Amanda, a demonstrator who only provided her first name, claimed Freeland did not want to listen to what demonstrators had to say.
“She didn’t want to hear us,” said Amanda.
“She was intent on getting to her meeting and she made it very clear that listening to us was not something she had time for.”
Blockades have been occurring across Canada in support of Wet’suwet’en First Nation’s fight against the $6-billion, 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline project, which crosses their traditional, unceded territory.
Via Rail was forced to cancel service between Montreal and Toronto for five days as a result of one of the blockades, while a protest caused disruption on Wednesday in Vancouver’s downtown core.