Exiled Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has criticized the Canadian authorities for not allowing him into the country in an open letter addressed to the Québécois people. In his letter, Puigdemont says he is “baffled” by Canada’s refusal to grant him a visa to visit the country, which he says he had always believed would be more “welcoming.”

Puigdemont, who is exiled in Belgium and wanted by Spain for the 2017 independence bid, adds his concern that Canada should see a self-determination vote as a “crime.” The exiled president says the attitude of the authorities in Ottawa “even threatens the idea of democracy,” and adds that he will respond, even if it means resorting to the courts.

Visa refusal challenged in federal court

Puigdemont’s visa application was turned down in October, which his lawyers challenged in Canada’s Federal Court, arguing it does “not respect his presumption of innocence.” That was the second time Canada has refused the former president permission to enter the country after an initial visa application was turned down in April.

Puigdemont was invited to Canada by the Francophone Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society, and only last week met with the head of the Bloc Québécois party, Yves-François Blanchet. Despite his criticisms of the authorities in Ottawa, Puigdemont also insists in his letter that Canada remains “a valuable partner for Catalonia.”

Puigdemont also thanked Canadians, in particular the people of Quebec, for their “solidarity” with “the peaceful and democratic aspirations of the Catalan people.”