Deposed Tunisia dictator’s family are Canadian permanent residents
Weeks of violent protests against the regime of Tunisia forced former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to flee the country, after 23 years in power. The Canadian government issued a statement: “Mr. Ben Ali, deposed members of the former Tunisian regime and their immediate families are not welcome in Canada.”
However, some family members have permanent residency status in Canada, which permits them to enter the country freely. In fact, Ben Ali’s daughter Nesrine and her husband, Tunisian business mogul Sakher el Materi, own a mansion in Montreal. El Materi’s youngest child was born in Canada and is a Canadian citizen.
Some of Ben Ali’s relatives arrived in Montreal last week, but privacy legislation prevents the government from disclosing who they are.
Immigration department looking into reasons to remove Tunisia family
Canadian immigration authorities are trying to determine whether Ben Ali’s extended family are entitled to stay in Canada. They are examining whether they have forfeited their permanent resident status due to prolonged absence from Canada, or if there are other reasons.
According to Canadian law, permanent residents are required to live in Canada for at least two years within a five-year period. Permanent residents could lose their status and could be removed from the country if they fail to meet residency requirements, or if they convict a serious crime.
Tunisia dictator’s family had ties to corruption
Sonia Djelidi, co-ordinator of a Montreal group supporting the revolution in Tunisia, implored the Canadian government to send the family members to Tunisia to face justice.
Family members of Ben Ali’s wife, Leila Trabelsi Ben Ali, are suspected of making money through their connections to the corrupt regime.
According to a 2008 diplomatic cable recently revealed by WikiLeaks, the United States embassy in Tunis described Ben Ali’s extended family as “the nexus of Tunisian corruption”, whose actions most angered the people of Tunisia.