José Bové, European politician who opposes trade deal, says he was held at Montreal airport

An anti-globalization activist and European Parliament MP who opposes a trade deal between Canada and the European Union says he missed a speaking engagement in Montreal last night after he was held up by customs at Trudeau airport, and was told he’ll have to leave the country today.

The Council of Canadians, a social action organization, had invited Bové to speak about his opposition to the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) on Tuesday night.

But Bové tweeted in the evening that he had been held up for several hours at Trudeau airport and he believes opponents of the trade treaty are not welcome in Canada.

After hours in customs, Bové was allowed to go to his hotel, but his passport was confiscated and he was told he would have to leave Canada on Wednesday afternoon, he said in an interview on CBC Montreal’s Daybreak.

Bové says border services agents told him he was being expelled because of his previous convictions, which he said is strange because he has been to Canada many times before with no problems.

He will hold a news conference at 10:30 a.m. ET, hours before he is expected to return to France.

A history of activism

Bové became famous in the 1980s and ’90s as an activist. In 1999, he vandalized a McDonald’s restaurant to protest against free trade in agriculture.

His career has been punctuated by other acts of civil disobedience that twice landed him in jail in the early 2000s. He was elected to Parliament in 2009 as part of the Groupe des Verts party.

Jean-Marc Desfilhes, his press attaché, said he and Bové had the same visa and Desfilhes got through customs without any issues.

“He isn’t a criminal. He is an elected member of the European Parliament. This is simply an extremely embarrassing situation,” Desfilhes said.

CETA has not been signed or ratified, although a signing ceremony is expected in Brussels later this month. If it is ratified by the European Parliament, some of its measures could be provisionally applied as early as 2017.

Critics say the deal will hurt farmers on both sides of the Atlantic. Bové said he believes the treaty is dangerous for the environment and is socially and ecologically unjust.

French PM visiting today

Bové’s time in Montreal coincides with a visit by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who is to arrive in Ottawa today.

The deal is one of a number of topics Valls, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard are expected to broach during Valls’s visit.

Bové says it seems that in Canada, authorities would rather talk about the free exchange of goods than free exchange of ideas.

He decried the fact that the French prime minister will be allowed into Canada, yet he was told to leave.

“That’s what is so incredible. It means those who defend the deal, who are in favour of this deal, can come here … but those who are opposed are treated like dangerous criminals, prevented from circulating, their passports are taken away,” he said in an interview with Radio-Canada.

A spokesperson for Public Security Minister Ralph Goodale says decisions on who is allowed into Canada are left to the discretion of border services agents.

A spokesperson for the Canada Border Services Agency said CBSA does not comment on individual cases, but that admissibility is determined on a case by case basis, and a person may be deemed inadmissible to Canada if they have committed a crime, or for security and financial reasons, among other reasons.

NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice, who was scheduled to meet with Bové on Thursday, says the situation is “totally unacceptable for a democratic country like Canada.” 

He said he will instruct his team to ask Goodale to intervene and let Bové speak tonight.

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