LONDON, Ont. - Protesters who oppose Canada's position in the Israel-Palestinian conflict interrupted a speech Friday by Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird in London, Ont.
Baird was speaking to the Chamber of Commerce about global challenges that could affect Canada's economy and security in the future when the incident happened.
Three people shouted at Baird about the deaths of Palestinian civilians while holding a white banner reading "Stop Supporting War Crimes."
Baird's response to the protesters was "Isn't it great to live in a country where we have freedom of expression?"
He also pointed out that they would not be able to express political opposition to the terrorist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip, calling Canada "a very blessed country."
Canada has been a staunch supporter of Israel during the country's month-long war with Hamas militants in Gaza, which has killed more than 1,900 Palestinians, most of them civilians, and 67 Israelis, all but three of them soldiers.
Baird expressed disdain at the UN Human Rights Council earlier this week for setting up a three-member team — led by a Canadian law professor — to investigate possible war crimes in Gaza.
In a series of tweets, Baird said the move was "an utter shame, and will do nothing to promote peace and dignity in Gaza for the Palestinian people.''
Baird also spoke Friday about the conflict in Ukraine, where he said Russian President Vladimir Putin continues his attempts to destabilize that country's democratically elected government.
Canada has been sending non-lethal military assistance to Ukraine, including body armour, medical kits, helmets and surveillance technology, a move that Baird said would help the eastern European nation secure and protect its border with Russia. Another shipment was departing for Kyiv Friday aboard a CC-130J Hercules aircraft.
Baird defended Canada's economic sanctions against key Russian individuals and entities, even though retaliatory measures from Putin against Canadian food producers are expected to hammer Canada's pork industry.
Baird said Putin must be made to understand that his actions are unacceptable.