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Minister says Mexico isn’t threatening trade consequences over new visa rules

Immigration Minister Marc Miller says Mexico has not warned Canada that the trade relationship between the two countries will suffer as a result of Canada's decision to re-impose visa requirements on Mexican travellers.

Marc Miller said lack of visa requirement drove up bogus asylum claims, stressed social supports for refugees

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller speaks speaks during a press conference in Ottawa about a revised final settlement agreement to compensate First Nations children and families on April 5, 2023.

Immigration Minister Marc Miller says Mexico has not warned Canada that the trade relationship between the two countries will suffer as a result of Canada's decision to re-impose visa requirements on Mexican travellers.

"Mexico as a sovereign country is allowed to take the measures it wants to take," Miller said Thursday in Ottawa. "That said, I have not had any indication that they will be reacting on their end.

"I did not have any indication when I spoke to the Mexican minister of foreign affairs there would be any trade repercussions."

CBC news first reported Wednesday that the visa requirement is being restored for Mexican travellers. The new rules will take effect on 11:30 p.m. ET on Thursday.

Mexico said it sent two "high-level missions" to Canada in recent weeks to express its concern about the effect the policy change will have on 60 per cent of Mexicans travelling to Canada.

"Mexico regrets this decision and believes that there were other options available before putting this measure in place," said a statement from the office of Secretary of Foreign Relations Adriana Bárcena. "Mexico reserves the right to act in reciprocity."

Miller said he knows Mexico is unhappy with the decision but the government had to act after a flood of failed asylum claims from Mexican nationals overwhelmed the refugee system and put a strain on social programs.

The "increase of illegitimate volumes and illegitimate claims that don't even have the prospect of succeeding does put a pressure on the system," he said. "It puts a pressure on the social supports that these people get simply by being on Canadian soil, so it has ripple effects across the system."

WATCH: Marc Miller explains why Ottawa is changing visa rules for Mexican nationals

Marc Miller explains why Ottawa is changing visa rules for Mexican nationals

3 hours ago

Duration 2:06

Immigration minister says 'claims that don’t even have the prospect of succeeding' required his government to act.

Canada received more than 25,000 refugee claims from Mexican nationals last year, says the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada — a number Miller says represents 17 per cent of all refugee claims Canada received that year.

Of those claims, 2,894 were accepted, 2,424 were rejected, 560 were abandoned and 1,240 were withdrawn by the applicants. Going into 2024, Canada had a backlog of more than 28,000 Mexican asylum claims.

"Increased volume, low success rate — there's a problem that has nothing to do with the [Immigration and Refugee Board] and an independent judicial process," Miller said Thursday. "The government then has a right and then a duty to take action."

Ontario, Quebec, U.S. expressed concerns

Miller said his government made the decision partly in response to pressure from the United States, which raised concerns about Mexicans traveling visa-free to Canada and then crossing into the U.S.

"We have seen a number of claimants cross from the northern part of the border into the United States," he said. "I won't exaggerate those flows but they are significant. They are nothing compared to what the U.S. is facing with respect to their southern border."

The minister said he was also motivated to clamp down after the provincial governments in Ontario and Quebec told him they were concerned about the rise in asylum seekers in their provinces.

  • Does the visa requirement affect you or your family? Do you have questions about the new rules? Send an email to ask@cbc.ca.

Last week, Quebec Premier François Legault wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking Ottawa to bring back the visa requirement for Mexican travellers.

"The possibility of entering Canada from Mexico without a visa certainly explains part of the influx of asylum seekers," the premier wrote.

The new rules facing Mexican travellers

As of 11:30 PM Thursday, Mexican citizens who hold valid U.S. non-immigrant visas or have held Canadian visas in the past 10 years, and are travelling to Canada by air, will be able to apply for electronic travel authorizations (ETA).

The ETA is a digital travel document that most visa-exempt travellers need in order to travel to or through Canada by air.

Mexican travellers who do not meet these conditions will have to apply for a visitor visa to enter Canada.

The federal government said most approved visa applicants will get multiple-entry visas, allowing them to visit Canada as many times as they want over a period of 10 years, or until their passport expires.

Mexican nationals who want to work or study in Canada will not be affected by the changes, nor will the Temporary Foreign Worker Program or the International Mobility Program, the government said in a media statement.

Mexicans with valid work or study permits who are outside Canada can still travel here by air with their existing ETAs, providing they're valid, and can continue to study or work in Canada based on the validity and conditions of their permits, the government said.

WATCH: Poilievre says Mexico visa changes should have come sooner

Poilievre says Mexico visa changes should have come sooner

2 hours ago

Duration 1:10

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should never have removed the visa requirements for Mexican nationals introduced by Stephen Harper — and should have acted faster to restore them.

Miller said Canada is expanding its network of visa application centres in Mexico to meet the demand.

The Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper imposed a visa requirement on Mexico in 2009 to stem the flow of asylum claims. The Trudeau government relaxed it in 2016.

Speaking in Ottawa Thursday, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said Harper's visa regime "all but eliminated" false asylum claims from Mexico and the visa requirement "never should have been lifted by Trudeau."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Peter Zimonjic

Senior writer

Peter Zimonjic is a senior writer for CBC News. He has worked as a reporter and columnist in London, England, for the Daily Mail, Sunday Times and Daily Telegraph and in Canada for Sun Media and the Ottawa Citizen. He is the author of Into The Darkness: An Account of 7/7, published by Random House.

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