Quebec politicians are denouncing the casting of French rock star and convicted killer Bertrand Cantat in a play in Montreal - a scheme that would require a ministerial exemption to let him into Canada.
Montreal's Théâtre du Nouveau Monde unveiled a 2011-2012 season this week that features Cantat, who was convicted of manslaughter in the death of his girlfriend in 2003, in a production of three plays by Sophocles. Canada would have to grant him an exception to a rule that stipulates a foreigner convicted of a crime that carries a sentence of 10 years or more in Canada is inadmissible - until five years have passed since the end of the convict's full sentence (which in Canat's case would be 2016) and the person proves they have been rehabilitated. Exemptions under a minister's permit are usually only granted for humanitarian reasons or if the national interest is at stake.
Wednesday, Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe said Canada should make no such exception.
"I believe in rehabilitation, but I don't think the wait is unreasonable," La Presse reported Duceppe saying in French at a press conference in Rivière-au-Renard.
"Hiring Bertrand Cantat with taxpayers' money to act in a play in a Quebec theatre is completely absurd," Action démocratique du Quebec leader Gérard Deltell said in a statement in French Wednesday, after unsuccessfully trying to introduce a motion in the Assemblée nationale Wednesday calling on the Quebec government to insist Ottawa apply the strictest interpretation of the law. "As a Quebecker, I am outraged and scandalized by the TNM's decision ... Bertrand Cantat is not welcome in Quebec."
Federal Liberal MP Denis Coderre also spoke against any exemption in a Twitter message Wednesday.
Cantat, former lead singer of the rock band Noir Désir, was sentenced to eight years in jail after he beat his girlfriend Marie Trintignant to death in a Lithuanian hotel room in 2003. He was paroled in 2007.
Montreal's Théâtre du Nouveau Monde, the largest theatre company in the city and one that receives government grants for the production of the classics as well as Quebec plays, is hosting an adaptation of three of Sophocles's plays about women that will feature Cantat. The production, Des Femmes, is actually being created by two smaller companies, Au Carré de l'Hypoténuse from France and Abé Carré Cé Carré of Quebec and is an adaptation of The Trachiniae, Antigone and Electra by the prominent Quebec director Wajdi Mouawad.
The TNM has defended its choice this week in the Quebec press, saying Cantat has paid for his crime. A spokesperson said Wednesday she had nothing to add but that the theatre expects to make a statement Thursday or Friday after reflecting on the situation.