Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced plans to lift the visitor visa requirement imposed on Mexican citizens by the former Conservative government in 2009. The restrictions will be lifted by the end of December 2016, although the new requirement to obtain an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) will be imposed in its place.
In 2009 the “Harper government” and former Conservative immigration minister Jason Kenney imposed a visitor visa requirement on Mexicans, who has previously been able to enter Canada as visitors visa-free. Jason Kenney had justified the imposition of the visa requirement as being necessary to stem the flow of refugees from Mexico, which at that time was in the throes of a violent drug war. The Mexican government took serious affront to this action, chilling relations between Canada and Mexico as a result.
The announcement of Justin Trudeau and the new Liberal government brings Canada-Mexico relations back to normal and shows respect to one of Canada’s major trading partners under the NAFTA.
Concerns that the lifting of the visa requirement will lead to a new flow of Mexican refugees into Canada are off-set by the recently introduced requirement for all visa-exempt travelers to obtain an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) before coming to Canada. The ETA process pre-screens travelers to detect security risks and other high risk travelers, who will then be denied an ETA and the ability to enter the country. For those Mexicans who do enter Canada and make refugee claims, the recently revamped and accelerated Refugee Board process aims to determine refugee cases within a few months, so that those undeserving of Canada’s protection are quickly returned to their home country.