Trudeau courts new Canadians with expanded immigration plan
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau speaks at a campaign event in Brampton, Ont., on Friday, Sep. 25, 2015.
Giuseppe Valiante, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, September 25, 2015 9:25AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, September 25, 2015 12:36PM EDT
BRAMPTON, Ont. -- In an effort to smooth relations with Mexico, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau promised Friday to remove visa requirements for Mexican citizens coming to Canada.
The subject has been a sore point between the two countries since the Conservative government imposed the visa in 2009 after a sharp increase in the numbers of Mexican asylum seekers.
The Conservatives argued at the time that many of the refugee applications were bogus. The Mexican ambassador to Canada said in 2013 his country was "really mad" because Canada made it difficult for tourists and businesspeople to travel north.
Trudeau said Conservative Leader Stephen Harper has soured Canada's relationship with Mexico over the last decade and promised to "do right by our continental neighbour."
He said since Canada and Mexico are both members of North American Free Trade Agreement, there shouldn't be travel barriers for their citizens.
He dismissed the Conservative government's claim that Mexico couldn't be a source of refugees.
"We need to ensure that Canada is a country that is accepting refugees who are fleeing persecution from all sorts of places around the world for all sorts of different reasons," Trudeau said.
He said asylum applications should be processed in a "reasonable and speedy fashion" but "there are other ways of doing that than slapping a Mexican visa that is hurting tourism and relations with our continental partner and quite frankly has hurt our growth within NAFTA."
Before 2009, Mexico was becoming one of Canada's largest sources of refugees.
Roughly 8,000 people were referred to the Immigration and Refugee board in 2008 and the there were over 13,000 other backlogged cases at the time.
In the first four months of 2009, almost 5,000 people entered Canada from Mexico and claimed refugee status, sparking the government's decision to impose the visa.
The Mexican embassy in Ottawa in 2009 said that barely 11 per cent of refugee applications from Mexico were approved, leading Canadian authorities to believe those fleeing Mexico were doing so for economic reasons rather than for security.
In February 2013, Canada imposed an additional barrier to Mexican asylum-seekers by placing the country on a list of safe places of origin, making it far more difficult for people to claim refugee status.
Safe countries of origin are described on the Citizenship and Immigration website as "countries that do not normally produce refugees, but do respect human rights and offer state protection."
Drug-related violence in Mexico, however, is a serious problem and Human Rights Watch reported that the Mexican government admitted in 2014 that over 22,000 people have been reported missing since 2006 in the so-called war on drugs.
The rights organization says that both drug cartels and government soldiers are responsible for torture and widespread killings.
Trudeau said Conservative claims of bogus refuges from Mexico are an example of the Tories "continually stoking fear and anger among Canadians. It's what they do. We are a generous and compassionate people."
The Liberal leader also reiterated his party's pledge to repeal the elements of Bill C-24 that gives the government the right to strip citizenship from dual nationals accused of serious crimes such as terrorism.
"The bill creates second-class citizens," Trudeau said. "No elected official should ever have the exclusive power to revoke Canadian citizenship. Under a Liberal government there will be no two-tiered citizenship. A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian."
The Liberal also promised to streamline the process of reunification for immigrant families.