Canada's new requirements for Mexicans entering Canada affect more than international relations
Canada’s recent move to apply new immigration legislation on Mexico, requiring all Mexicans to apply for visas to enter Canada, is sparking discontent across Mexico and within the Mexican diaspora in Quebec.
"I think this is going to impact the entire Mexican relationship to Canada," comments Edgardo Flores Rivas, Mexico’s consul general in Quebec. "Just in Quebec alone, there are an estimated 20,000 Mexicans. Many Mexicans studying and working in Quebec are detrimentally impacted by the new visa requirements."
Canada’s Immigration Minister Jason Kenny announced the new legislation with no advance warning, basing the decision on the Conservative government’s experience of numerous Mexican refugee claimants in recent years.
In Mexico City, thousands wait outside the Canadian embassy in round-the-clock line-ups to acquire visas for studies, work, business and tourism. Mexicans in Montreal fleeing political persecution in their home country are also speaking out against the newly imposed visa requirements.
"Canada’s new visa requirements are unfair and racist," says Enrique Rivera Sierra, a refugee from Cerro de San Pedro, who fled Mexico due to a grassroots campaign opposing an open-pit mine operated by Metallica Resources, a Canadian mining company.
Criticism of the new visa requirements argues that the requirements do not take into account the situation of political violence in the country.
"Today in Mexico, social movements are facing severe repression from the government, political killings, while also there is very little economic opportunity," continues Rivera Sierra. "So, due to the situation in Mexico, people are forced to flee. The U.S. has sealed the border militarily while now Canada is barring access due to the new visa requirements."
Violence in Mexico in recent years has seen killings, rape and torture carried out by state security forces, as documented by Amnesty International.
In May 2006, a teachers’ strike in Oaxaca, demanding higher wages, sparked major protests in Oaxaca City and led to serious violence from state security forces. In October 2006, state-backed paramilitary forces fired on a demonstration, killing three: Esteban Zurrita and Emilio Alonso Fabian, local activists involved in the protests, and Brad Will, a journalist and activist from New York City documenting the popular uprising in Oaxaca. Until today, no Mexican police or state security forces have been charged in the well-documented killings.
"Refugees from Mexico can no longer apply for refugee status in Canada, period," explains Veronica Islas from Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior (Institute of Mexicans Abroad) in Montreal. "So, for example, refugees fleeing political violence from situations like we saw in Oaxaca simply will not be able to travel to Canada."