Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney announced today that as of July 14, 2009 Mexicans will require temporary resident visas or more commonly known as visitor visas to enter Canada. Citizens of the Czech Republic will also face such restrictions.
The rationale given is to stem the flow of refugee claims from Mexico which are allegedly flooding the Canadian refugee system. The large volume of claims, says the Minster, is causing undue delays and is “undermining our ability to help people fleeing real persecution”. Refugee claims originating from Mexico is on the upswing due to the escalating drug wars there. Over 5500 refugee claims have been made in the first half of 2009.
While we can understand the Minister’s concerns about overloading our refugee system with so many claims from Mexico, imposing Canadian Visa requirements for all Mexicans, is in our view, overblown and somewhat knee-jerk. After all, Mexico is a major trading partner with Canada and is party the the NAFTA agreement. For many years Mexicans have enjoyed expedited processing of their Canadian work permits thanks to NAFTA. This has without a doubt benefited Canadian businesses who rely on manpower from south of the border to fill certain key positions, resulting in a benefit to our economy.
Given the harsh economic conditions we face, now is not the time for measures which would effectively close borders and strain relations between Canada and Mexico. Further, admittedly there are indeed dangerous social conditions that many Mexicans face. By requiring Visas for all Mexicans to enter Canada, we are preventing many legitimate refugee cases from Mexico from being heard. This is certainly not what Canada’s refugee policies were designed for.
Perhaps a better solution would have been to impose more stringent criteria in terms of making and proceeding with refugee claims from Mexico to avoid abuse rather than to just impose a blanket Visa restriction that would effectively prevent many well meaning visitors and workers to Canada as well as putting some in danger of persecution by stopping credible refugee claims.