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Anti-Semitic French Comic Can't Enter Canada, But He Has a Plan to Do His Montreal Shows Anyway

Dieudonné M'bala M'bala, infamous for his incitement of violence against the Jewish community, was banned from entering Canada — although the Canadian government won't admit to it.
AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere

The organizers of several sold-out shows for the notorious comic who has faced a litany of hate speech convictions are implementing "plan B" after he was denied entry into Canada earlier this week.

Dieudonné M'bala M'bala, known better as just Dieudonné, was supposed to kick off a 10-show series at a small downtown art gallery on Wednesday, followed by two more in Quebec City and one in Trois-Rivières.

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"There's a little setback, I have to do a round-trip but I'll be coming back … I'll be in Montreal tonight,"Dieudonné posted in French on his Facebook page, before being forced to get on a flight back to France.

His brief stay in Canada occurred the same day he was convicted of hate speech in France, given a two-month suspended jail sentenced, and ordered to pay a €10,000 fine for anti-Semitic speech in a show, according to French media reports.

Initially, it was reported that he would be cancelling the show but on a note posted to Facebook on Wednesday, Dieudonné insisted his Montreal shows would go on — just not with him in the flesh.

"Now technology has given us a solution because we're in 2016," his promoter Gino Ste-Marie told VICE News, adding that details of "plan B" would be revealed on Wednesday night, and that those who bought tickets would have a chance to see the comedian "virtually."

Related: Jewish Groups Want Canada to Keep Out a French Comedian Convicted of Inciting Hatred

The promoters and gallery owner have defended the new show in the past.

Mushagalusa Chigoho, the gallery owner, told the CBC in April that he was aware of Dieudonné's reputation, but that didn't find the content of the upcoming show, titled Dieudonné in Peace, offensive.

"There was nothing insulting, nothing degrading, nothing racist. I can't be responsible for what he's said in the past," Chigoho said.

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Ste-Marie also said the overall message of the show was positive, with the overarching theme being the comedian's life in the limelight.

Facebook updates posted on Dieudonné's official page said that the show had been moved to EVO, a hotel in Montreal's downtown.

Passengers who were on the same flight told Radio-Canada that the comedian was met by border agents in Montreal upon landing.

The Paris-born comedian of half-French, half-Cameroonian descent has been arrested at least 38 times under French hate speech laws.

Related: Controversial French Comedian Convicted of 'Glorifying Terrorism' in Facebook Post

While he himself denies he's anti-Semitic and launched his comedy career with progressive, anti-racist material, in the past decade or so, Dieudonné has become known for making light of ethnic stereotypes and especially for inflammatory stand-up bits about Jews.

On multiple occasions, he's denied the Holocaust and has said France is run by Jewish "slave drivers." He's also said to have invented a hand gesture known as the "quenelle," which critics say looks like an inverted Nazi salute.

In November of 2014, he was fined and sentenced to two months in jail by a Belgian court for making anti-Semitic jokes and denying the Holocaust, as well as calling on Muslims and Christians to unite to kill Jews, at a show in 2012.

Despite all this, Dieudonné remains wildly popular -- his Facebook page has over 1 million likes, and all of his shows in Quebec were sold out.

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"For social harmony, it's very good that he was not allowed to enter the country."

Several Canadian politicians have weighed in on Dieudonné's arrival, with some taking harsher stances than others.

Immigration Minister John McCallum told reporters on Monday that Canada should generally be "slow to say 'no' to someone who wants to come into Canada, because if we say no, it gives more attention to these people.

"So I'd say, in general, it should only be in very extreme cases where should we say no to letting these individuals enter Canada," he said.

While Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly said she wouldn't go to his show herself, she refused to comment on whether the comedian should be barred from entering the country.

"It goes without saying that discriminatory speech is not tolerated," she said, deferring to border guards to make a decision. "So to the extent that there is discriminatory speech, it won't be tolerated."

Asked on Wednesday morning if she was comfortable with Dieudonné not being admitted to Canada, she told reporters: "You've repeatedly asked the question of whether I'm going to see the show, and I've told you multiple times that I will not. For the rest, it's the decision of the border agents."

Quebec's Minister of Immigration, Diversity, and Inclusion Kathleen Weil told reporters in Quebec City that "for social harmony, it's very good that he was not allowed to enter the country."

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Meanwhile, speaking in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel asked if the government had used "its power to prevent this man from entering Canada.

"Dieudonné M'Bala M'Bala has been convicted many times for hate speech, slander, and glorifying terrorism. This evening, he is supposed to put on a so-called comedy show in Montreal," she said. "Did the government use its power to prevent this man from entering Canada?"

Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale wouldn't answer, saying simply that border guards "take all relevant factors into account, including the existence of a criminal record."

New Democratic Party leader Tom Mulcair also publicly opposed to Dieudonné being allowed in: "Well, there are laws in Canada. When someone propagates hate against a religious or racial group, we need to ban these people from Canada," he said. "We're not going to intentionally permit someone who has been condemned in another country for inciting racial hatred to come into Canada with impunity. That's not a good way to do it."

Follow Tamara Khandaker on Twitter: @anima_tk