It could take up to a year to remove any visa restrictions imposed on Mexico according to Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney.
Introduced in 2009, Mexican nationals are required to obtain temporary residence visas or tourist visas to visit Canada because of reportedly “high” numbers of refugee claimants coming from the country. Kenney also said that, “No responsible government would be able to reconsider visa liberalization unless and until there has been a reform of the asylum system.” Kenney was referring to his proposed Refugee Reform Bill, introduced in March of this year.
Kenney said he hoped that a law could be passed over the summer, but it would still take at least one year to fully understand and study the new refugee system in relation to Mexico. Mexican President Felipe Calderón was in Ottawa visiting Prime Minister Harper just last week, and prior to the visit it was very much expected that the visa issue would be a big point of discussion between the two. According to Canwest News Service, a government official told them that the two leaders were expected to have a “pretty robust discussion”.
Indeed, it was. Calderón told Parliament, “We thoroughly respect Canada’s right to make decisions regarding its immigration system. I cannot, however, fail to convey to you our regret at those incidents and decisions,” he said. “We sincerely hope that the solution this Parliament is studying, through comprehensive amendments to the refugee law, will also serve as a bridge that will enable us to renew our exchanges of our visitors.”
Meanwhile, The Toronto Star reported only a few days ago that the visa requirements are a sore spot for Mexicans. In particular, one Toronto family whose Mexican relatives just want to come and visit their newborn baby nephew. A travel agent in Mexico also mentioned to the Star that legitimate Mexican visitors to Canada are required to list all of their family living in Canada, and the Mexicans worry that if they have a lot of Canadian family members, this might be used as evidence they want to stay in Canada permanently, so they’re hesitant to report the information.
The visa requirement is reportedly having an extremely negative effect on middle-class Mexicans, who really only want to visit Canada, not live here. According to the Star, approximately 250,000 legitimate Mexican travelers visited Canada in the year before the new restrictions were introduced. According to Minister Kenney, asylum claims are down 90 per cent from Mexico, and Canadian taxpayers have been saved $400 million so far.
While the TRV restrictions looked like they have put a damper on Mexican based refugee claims, one should ask whether some of those potential claimants that never made it to our shores were deserving of our protection.
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