The Liberal government is set to go against its own advisers by lifting the visa requirement for Mexican tourists, effective December 1, 2016.
Fears the move will spark an increase in asylum claims from Mexicans – the reason the restriction was imposed in the first place – means officials at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) do not support the move.
But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is ready to go ahead anyway, putting in place some strict conditions for lifting a condition which represented part of his campaign when he came to power in 2015.
IRCC officials feel the lower standard of living in Mexico will motivate Mexicans to try to move permanently to Canada. Furthermore, the officials are understood to have warned that citizens of surrounding countries could look to use Mexico’s porous passport system as their own route to get to Canada and claim asylum.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto is currently making a state visit to Canada as part of the Three Amigos summit with Trudeau and Barack Obama in Ottawa.
Nieto is understood to have assured Trudeau there will be no avalanche of refuge claims.
The Mexican leader is believed to have agreed to share information on travellers and issue a warning to citizens that Canada is not an easy country to get into.
Trudeau said on Wednesday that he and Nieto “will work to fix some of the challenges that have been going on for too long, like the visa issues,” when the state visit starts on Monday.
The visa requirement was imposed by the Conservatives in 2009 because of the overwhelming number of asylum claims from Mexico. The number of claims dropped from 9,000 to 1,199 as a result of the move, with associated costs falling from $304 million to $44 million.
However, the Tourism Industry Association of Canada estimates $465 million was lost as a result of the restriction.
Mexico Finance Minister Luis Videgaray said recently that better relations with Canada could result should Donald Trump be elected president of the USA.
Videgaray believes the countries immediately north and south of the US could see enhanced trade and investment should Trump put into practice some of the policies he has spoken of if he makes it to the White House.
Trump has vowed to make Mexico pay for a wall along the US border if he beats Hillary Clinton in the November election. He also calls the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which governs trade between the two nations and Canada, ‘the worst trade deal ever done’ and says he will rip it up if he becomes president.
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