MONTREAL — Canadian border services agents in Montreal sent convicted anti-Semitic French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala back to France after he landed in Montreal for a series of ten sold-out shows.
The move on Tuesday came following his latest conviction in France only hours earlier for breaking hate speech laws, for which he was fined $15,000 Cdn.
It also came in the wake of more than two weeks of pressure on Ottawa by Jewish groups to keep Dieudonné from entering Canada based on his numerous convictions in Europe over the last decade for hate speech and Holocaust denial.
Montreal mayor Denis Coderre had said Dieudonné was not welcome.
“It would seem that the [Canadian Border Services Agency] made the right decision today,” said David Ouellette of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA). “Through his incitement to violence, glorification of terrorism, and anti-Semitic vitriol, he was clearly not admissible to Canada.”
Dieudonné confirmed he had to depart Canada, “but I will return,” he said on his Facebook page. “I will be in Montreal tomorrow ‘in peace,’” he wrote, using the name of his planned show.
That comment led some news reports to speculate that he might try to return and enter Canada again on Wednesday for his first show.
Dieudonné, 50, had sold out shows in three Quebec cities, including the Montreal art gallery that was vandalized in apparent anticipation of his appearance there.
He was slated to perform in Montreal starting Wednesday, and then move on to Trois-Rivieres and Quebec City.
After his arrival in Montreal, according to a report in the Montreal Gazette, he was detained in the airport’s customs area until the decision was announced not to let him in.
In response, Rabbi Reuben Poupko, co-chair of CIJA Quebec, issued a statement commending Border Services Canada for making the right decision.
“Admissibility to Canada is not a right but a privilege,” Poupko said. “Dieudonné forfeited this privilege with his numerous criminal convictions for hate speech, incitement to violence and glorification of terrorism. Border Services Canada agents made the right call yesterday in upholding the specific criteria required for entry into the country.
“In the context of a rise in violent and deadly anti-Semitism in Europe, professional anti-Semitic agitator Dieudonné is not welcome in Quebec or Canada tomorrow any more than he was today.”
“We are pleased that Dieudonné was sent back home,” added Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre (FSWC) CEO and President Avi Benlolo. “We hope he is never allowed to return. At the same time, we are saddened that he was invited to Montreal in the first place and despite his racism, he filled ten shows. Given that he has publicly denied the Holocaust and frequently makes jokes about gas chambers and invented Jewish conspiracies, what does this say about our social environment?”
Dieudonné has been popular in Quebec since 2004, but less so in recent years. He had shows cancelled in 2012 because of the controversy surrounding him.
Countries that have barred the comedian include Great Britain and Hong Kong.
The show he was set to perform in Quebec was described by promoters as tame, but that did not allay the concerns of those opposed to him appearance.