Montreal

Catalan leader re-applying for entry to Canada after travel permit mix-up

If all goes well, Carles Puigdemont will be in Quebec for a visit, spearheaded by nationalist group Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste, from June 10 to 14.

Lawyer for Carles Puigdemont says government has agreed to re-evaluate his travel permit request

Carles Puigdemont, the former regional president of Catalonia in northeast Spain, now intends to visit Quebec in June. (Aris Oikonomou/AFP/Getty Images)

The exiled former president of Spain's Catalonia region may be able to come to Canada after all.

Stéphane Handfield, the Canadian lawyer for Catalan separatist Carles Puigdemont, said Friday that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will re-evaluate Puigdemont's request for the travel document he needs to travel to this country.

He filed a new request Friday and intends to be in Quebec for a visit, spearheaded by a nationalist group, from June 10 to 14.

Puigdemont was supposed to arrive in Quebec in early April to take part in an event organized by the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste about the failed 2017 referendum on Catalonia's independence.

Earlier this week, the group revealed he never made it to Canada because, they said, the government revoked his travel permit two days before he was set to arrive.

That news caused an uproar in some corners of Quebec. However, it is now emerging that there is more to the story.

Puigdemont used a private agency to apply for his travel permit instead of applying directly on the government website.

The agency's website mirrors the look of the government website, but it does say it is not affiliated with the government — in small print, at the bottom of the homepage.

The agency never informed Puigdemont that the government had made two written requests for more information about his visit, Handfield said.

Those letters stated that his travel permit, which had already been issued, would be suspended if the information wasn't sent in.

All Puigdemont received was an email from the agency saying his permit was revoked, not suspended. He mistakenly thought that email came from the government.

May drop court proceedings

Earlier this week, Puigdemont filed a motion contesting the decision about his travel permit in Federal Court.

But Handfield said the government agreeing to look over the file again and provide the letters amounts to the same outcome as if they had been successful in court.

He said if all goes well in the case in the coming days, they will put an end to the court proceedings.

The former Catalan president fled Spain in 2017 to avoid prosecution after his regional government held an unauthorized referendum on independence.

Puigdemont is currently in exile in Brussels and is considered a fugitive by the Spanish government.

He faces up to 25 years behind bars if found guilty of rebellion and misuse of public funds.

Handfield said he can't imagine how an elected official who organized a referendum in his country could be considered a criminal when it comes to Canadian immigration laws and barred from entry.

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