Ex-Mexican president Vicente Fox denounces visa ruling in Calgary.
By Suzanne Wilton
The Canwest News Service (Canada), October 5, 2009
Calgary — Canada is making a “big mistake'' by not backing down on its visa requirements for Mexican nationals, says that country's former president.
Speaking at the University of Calgary, Vicente Fox urged the Canadian government to find a “better solution'' to its refugee problems, if that indeed is the reason for its recent change in policy in requiring Mexicans to obtain a visa to come here.
“It's a big mistake,'' said Fox, Mexico's president from 2000 to 2006. “You don't do that to your neighbours, your partners.''
Canada sparked a so-called visa war in July, when Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced the new visa requirement for Mexicans, as well as residents of the Czech Republic.
Critics and experts said the policy chance could hurt trade relations with the European Union, because of the Czech Republic's membership, and with Mexico, a NAFTA partner. Mexico soon retaliated, saying it would require diplomats to have a visa to enter Mexico; the Czech Republic recalled its ambassador in protest.
Seeking to smooth relations with Mexico at a high-profile summit in August, Prime Minister Stephen Harper blamed Canada's refugee system for a decision to impose visas on Mexican nationals, and urged Parliament to enact changes to stave off “bogus'' claims.
But he showed no indication Canada would rescind the policy.
Mexico is the No. 1 source of refugee claims to Canada, with the number nearly tripling to 9,400 since 2005, according to the Immigration Department.
If Canada's refugee system is to blame, then the country ought to fix the problem instead of imposing penalties on the entire Mexican nation, said Fox, adding many Mexicans work in the U.S. and in Canada in the construction and service industries.
“I don't know how much this great nation realizes what it's losing by requiring that visa,'' said Fox, who addressed the issue during a question-and- answer session following a Monday evening talk on leadership.