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Ultratrace | Mathieu Blanchard stuck in France

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No mountain had slowed Mathieu Blanchard down to date. Until he clashes with that of the bureaucracy.

Posted at 6:00

Federico Duchesneau

Federico Duchesneau
The print

On Wednesday, four days after his historic performance at the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB), the native Frenchman was ready to return to his home Quebec, where he has lived for ten years.

But at the airport, as he is about to board the plane, he is notified of a problem: his Canadian permanent residence card has expired. “You can’t go back to Quebec,” he is told.

Blanchard will argue that he lives there and has no home in France, to no avail.

“For nine years we have been saying: ‘The Montrealer who will win the races and who represents Quebec in the world”, then in the end the government does not recognize me as a Quebecer. Up to forbidding me to get on the plane to reach my home. ”

Blanchard was well aware that his resident status expired after five years. Although the expiration date appears behind the card in a very small size, he says he. And he also knew that, as with the passport, if this card has expired, no salvation.

But two elements of the story deeply irritate him.

First, that he was prevented from crossing the Atlantic so that he could solve this administrative problem simply, in person.

“I’m also a bit guilty. I should have checked the expiration of my card when I left for the race. From a purely administrative point of view I’m wrong”, he admits, in a video interview with The printTuesday noon, Quebec time.

“On the other hand, from an ethical and human point of view, it is not normal to prevent me from getting on the plane and returning home to renew my residence permit. To tell me to stay in France and make do with the embassy to find a solution. ”

Fortunately, there may be a solution. The athlete is betting on “some kind of visa” called TVRP (permanent resident travel document). He sent his passport with this hope to the embassy in Paris.

It does not make sense. There is a solution, but it is not the simplest.

Matthew Blanchard

If he is granted this stamp, he can still re-enter the country and request the renewal of his card. For the moment he is patient in the family home in Cavaillon, not far from Marseille, hoping to see his passport in the mailbox, enriched with the stamp that will free him from the bureaucratic yoke.

“But here, I’m in total vagueness”, he dissolved.

And if the TVRP is not assigned to him, the situation becomes even more complicated. “From there, I have no more solutions, apart from swimming or rowing,” he says.

But, of course, even a favorable outcome would leave traces. A bitter taste, at best.

“In fact, I have to admit that now I’m so disgusted, it affects my life so much that I say to myself: ‘Too bad, Quebec doesn’t want me, I’ve been here for almost 10 years., I’m’ I’m leaving, I’m going back to France then enough“. ”

Slow citizenship process

The other cause of his outrage is the slow processing of his citizenship application, which he claims he filed three years ago, the same day he was eligible. As he had done a few years earlier for his permanent residence.

“The nerve of the war is that my citizenship shouldn’t have taken more than three years to arrive and that today there is no phone number to say to anyone: ‘Hey guyscheck my file because there is a problem, something is stuck. “Can’t last more than three years.”

Mathieu Blanchard arrived in Quebec in 2014 on a work visa. He was an engineer, a profession he has since left him.

Many of his friends were granted Canadian citizenship in a year, a year and a half. Not him.

“Since my citizenship process fell into a deep crack, I don’t know where, well, that gave the card time to expire, so I’m not a citizen yet and I’m no longer a resident. Today,” he sums up.

Last November, the athlete – who is director of international business development for La Clinique durunner – took the penultimate step that led to Canadian citizenship, a test he calls “rather complicated, about the country’s history, politics, everything. the rest”. Ten months later, he is still waiting.

It is therefore not entirely correct to say that his file has fallen into a crack. In fact, it appears to have been fished out from the first … before sinking into another.

Ottawa’s response

Mathieu Blanchard says he has written to the office of his federal deputy – Minister Steven Guilbeault – and to some MPs from other institutions. The print tried to find out more about the Franco-Quebec dossier of the Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (MIRC). After having sent, as requested, an authorization form duly completed and signed by Mathieu Blanchard, the MIRC replied that we would be given a written reply as soon as possible, referring us for the moment to a general prospectus, of which here is an excerpt:

Permanent Residents (PR) of Canada must present their valid PR card or Permanent Resident Travel Document (PRTD) when boarding a plane to Canada or traveling to Canada on any other commercial carrier. if their PR or TVRP card, they may be denied access to board the plane, train, bus or ship. It is their responsibility to ensure that their PR card is still valid when they return to Canada and apply for a new one upon expiration. For current permanent residents applying to renew their PR card, the current processing time is 78 days. ”

Step by step with a legend


PHOTO JEFF PACHOUD, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESS ARCHIVE

Kílian Jornet, winner of the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc 2022

“It’s horrible, I was on my little cloud of happiness, and then this story of making me go back, it scared me…, says Mathieu Blanchard, suddenly moved. It hurt me. ”

Within days, Blanchard emotionally went from one extreme to another. If last Wednesday he had to turn his heel at the airport, on the previous Saturday he had marked the annals of the legendary Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB).

“I don’t deserve this. It’s unfair and it makes me angry. But it’s so powerful, what happened to me at the UTMB, that I can still focus a little bit on it,” he points out.

What happened to him that 19And UTMB? Complete the 170km event in under 20 hours. A psychological ceiling that had never been broken.

One would be led to believe that he then won the race …

From Kílian Jornet to PK Subban

About fifty kilometers from the end, the French-Quebecer joins the leader, Kílian Jornet. In the throes of severe muscle pain, Jornet is sick. Instead of overtaking him without hesitation, Blanchard slows down to support him and run with him. The Spaniard will cross the finish line in 19 h 49 min 30 s, or 5 min 20 s before his competitor.

Looking back, does Blanchard regret, even if only a little, his outburst of sportsmanship?

“No,” he replies unequivocally. Because the person I did it with is the legend of our sport. Not of our times, of all times.

“He raced on Everest, he won all the biggest races in the world. He is a god. And I have a lot of respect for him, he has inspired me enormously through his books, his films. I’m where I am today partly due to that person’s inspiration, so it was impossible for me to walk past him and say “hi, hi, I got you”. ”

Blanchard will therefore retain, in addition to the second place, the privilege of running in the wake of Jornet.


PHOTO JEFF PACHOUD, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESS ARCHIVE

Mathieu Blanchard and Kilian Jornet

“It’s like we’re telling you that you have the choice between playing hockey for two hours with Subban or facing him and hurting him,” explains the Quebecer.

The runner smiled a little as he said the name of the former Canadian defender. He admits that his gourmet credentials are out of date. However, we got the idea.

“He is second place behind the greatest athlete of all time. It’s like you’ve won. ”

The following

Blanchard is Honorary President of the Ultra-Trail Harricana du Canada (UTHC), which will take place next weekend in Charlevoix. The question now is whether he can be there in the flesh. The odds obviously seem unfavorable.

“And my heart hurts,” he blurts out.

Perhaps he could have taken on his role remotely, but it would have been “a less humane option,” which he had not discussed with the event director at the time of our interview.

Then, in November, Blanchard wanted to race for Canada at the Mountain and Trail World Championships, which will be held in Thailand. But first he should have obtained Canadian citizenship. A prospect that, at the moment, also seems unlikely.

“Journalists have often asked me the question: ‘Mathieu, you are of French descent, would you run under the Canadian flag? I always answered “yes”, because I discovered this sport in Quebec, where my trail running community is located. It would be a gesture of the heart for me. I learned everything and my whole life has developed thanks to Quebec and Montreal and I am in love with the country. ”

But the “crazy meander” he is in means he might rather align with his country of origin.

“Unless someone wakes up and manages to unlock my citizenship before November. But I very much doubt. ”

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