Mexico’s frustration with Canadian visa requirements has been simmering for some time

Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto.

Ay Caramba, Canada's relationship with Mexico could be headed for troubled waters thanks to the visa requirements we place on visitors from the North American country.

Mexican officials are said to be “really mad” over the lack of welcome mat laid out for visitors, calling it an insult that could derail an upcoming celebration of how close the two countries have become over the years.

It is an issue that has been simmering for some time, but upcoming anniversaries put the relationship under the spotlight.

Next year is a double-anniversary in our relationship with Mexico. The two countries established diplomatic relations in 1944 after fighting on the same side of WWII.

Our trade relationship was cemented with the creation of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto is planning a visit to Canada in 2014 to mark the 70th anniversary of one and 20th anniversary of the other. But those plans could be scuttled by the ongoing frustration over Canada's visa demands.

"We're now really mad," Ambassador Francisco Suarez told the Canadian Press in an interview. "Canada has the most stringent visa system for Mexicans of any country in the world."

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Visa restrictions were imposed on Mexico in 2009 following a surge of refugee status claims. A Citizenship and Immigration Canada announcement from that year reads:

Refugee claims from Mexico have almost tripled since 2005, making it the number one source country for claims. In 2008, more than 9,400 claims filed in Canada came from Mexican nationals, representing 25 per cent of all claims received. Of the Mexican claims reviewed and finalized in 2008 by the Immigration and Refugee Board, an independent administrative tribunal, only 11 per cent were accepted.

Earlier this year, Mexico was added to Canada's list of safe places. Being considered safe makes it more difficult for citizens of that country to receive asylum in Canada.

The issue of visa requirements has plagued the relationship for some time. Peña Nieto raised his concern during a 2012 visit to Canada, shortly before he was sworn in as President of Mexico.

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Last year, more than 17,000 temporary workers travelled to Canada, a relationship benefiting both economies. Others move to Canada permanently," he wrote in a Globe and Mail editorial.

"But the 2009 decision to impose visa requirements on Mexican citizens was met with disappointment in our country. We respect Canada’s right to determine its immigration policies. However, I favour a review of the visa policy in light of the increasing number of hard-working Mexicans seeking to visit, work and study legally in your country."

Sure, Mexico and Canada are just the bread slices in the sandwich that is North America, but we’ve come together recently to form stronger ties. We’ve got the decade-old Canada-Mexico Partnership and more-frequent-than-ever meetings between our leaders.

Not to mention, 1.6 million Canadians travelled to Mexico in 2011, while 130,000 Mexicans visited Canada.

Harper has said he wants to lighten the visa requirements for Mexico, but so far nothing has been done. Perhaps more robust action on the file would make a nice anniversary present?

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