Federal officials to look again at Catalan leader’s request to come to Canad

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The exiled former president of Spain’s Catalonia region will try again to get travel documents to come to Canada after a snafu involving a third party website handling his application appears to have led to his initial denial, his Montreal lawyer said Friday.

Lawyer Stephane Handfield said immigration officials will take another look at Carles Puigdemont’s application after the sovereigntist politician’s travel permit application wasn’t accepted.

Puigdemont, who lives in exile in Belgium, received an Electronic Travel Authorization from Canada. But on March 31, two days before his scheduled arrival in Quebec, the federal government suspended the permit without giving a reason.

Handfield told a news conference that Puigdemont never received a request from Canadian officials for further documentation that led to the suspension, blaming a website the Catalan politician used to file the application.

He re-submitted the documents on Friday in a bid to come to Canada, this time from June 10-14.

“If the case was solid on the side of the (immigration) department, they would have maintained the decision and gone to the Federal Court to argue it,” Handfield said Friday. “On the contrary, they agreed to re-evaluate the file.”

Puigdemont, who fled Spain in 2017 to avoid prosecution after his regional government held an unauthorized referendum on independence, was invited to Quebec by the nationalist group Societe Saint-Jean-Baptiste.

One of the elements considered in refusing a travel document is if the applicant is facing criminal charges. Puigdemont does face criminal charges in Spain for organizing a referendum on Catalan independence, a move that Madrid had declared illegal.

But Handfield noted that holding a referendum on independence is not a crime in Canada and said refusing his client on that basis would be difficult to justify.

Societe Saint-Jean-Baptiste president Maxime Laporte had accused Ottawa earlier this week of refusing Puigdemont entry into the country because the leader was a Catalan separatist and the government wanted to avoid him delivering his views to a Quebec audience.

Laporte said Friday the ball is back in Canada’s court and it would reflect poorly on the federal government to prevent Puigdemont from coming to Quebec.

Handfield had filed a motion Monday in Federal Court seeking judicial review, but the Immigration Department has since told the lawyer it will re-evaluate the application and allow Puigdemont an opportunity to provide documents it had requested.

The lawyer said the application for judicial review will be maintained unless his client is given the green light to travel to Canada.

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