About 60 members of Montreal's Tunisian community held a quiet demonstration outside the Château Vaudreuil Wednesday evening and into the morning because they believe relatives of the ousted president of Tunisia are hiding in the hotel.
Belhassen Trabelsi, brother-in-law of Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, and his family are believed to have flown into Montreal on a private jet a week ago, and apparently booked into the sprawling hotel complex just off the west end of the Island of Montreal.
'Canada will use all the tools at its disposal to co-operate with the international community in dealing with members of the former regime. They are not welcome — I'll be very clear — we do not welcome them in out country.'—Prime Minister Stephen Harper, speaking in Morocco
This has outraged Tunisians in the city because the billionaire businessman has been accused of stealing large amounts of money from Tunisia.
They want his Canadian assets frozen by the government, and his extradition to Tunisia.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has confirmed that some members of the ousted Tunisian president's family are in Canada, and that they already have permanent resident status. He would not give their names, he said, because of privacy laws.
Speaking in Morocco, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said there will be no welcome mat in Canada for Ben Ali or his family.
"Canada will use all the tools at its disposal to co-operate with the international community in dealing with members of the former regime," he said in Rabat following a meeting with Morocco's prime minister and foreign minister.
"They are not welcome — I'll be very clear — we do not welcome them in out country," Harper said.
He said Canada welcomes the political change happening in Tunisia.
Tunisia's transitional government has issued an arrest warrant for Ben Ali, who was driven out of the country last week, accusing him of taking money out of the North African country illegally. It also asked Interpol to help track down Ben Ali and his family.
Ben Ali is also charged with illegally acquiring real estate and other assets abroad.
Tunisia also wants Ben Ali's wife, Leila Trabelsi, arrested. French media have reported she left Tunisia with millions in gold bullion.
Arrest warrants were also issued for other family members, and Tunisian news sources say Trabelsi is included in the warrant.
'A lot of angry Tunisians'
But Public Safety Minister Vic Toews isn't saying if Canada will act on that warrant:
"They are not welcome in Canada, but beyond that I can't say anything because there are potential proceedings that would affect them," Toews said.
Montrealer Haroun Bouazzi said Wednesday that Tunisians in the city are thrilled to hear that Interpol is after Trabelsi.
Bouazzi speaks for a group of Tunisian expatriates fighting for justice in their homeland — the Collectif de solidarité au Canada avec les luttes sociales en Tunisie.
"Now I know that there are a lot of angry Tunisians. The first thing we knew, that these people were in a hotel somewhere in the West Island, I know that some Tunisians went in every hotel looking for these people," Bouazzi said.
A diplomatic cable made public by WikiLeaks from the former U.S. ambassador to Tunisia, Gordon Gray, makes it clear why he's not liked.
The cable describes the Trabelsi family in Mafia-like terms.
The family provokes the greatest ire from Tunisians, the cable says.
Belhassen Trabelsi, the ambassador went on to say, is the most notorious family member, and is rumoured to be involved in a wide range of corrupt schemes.