New visa rules affect Mexican Canadian parishes

By 
  • July 27, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - It was supposed to be a summer reunion for Rosa Flores and five of her friends from Mexico.

But the St. Anthony’s Church parishioner says Canada’s new visa rules mean her friends won’t be coming to visit her in Toronto this August.

On July 14, the Canadian government imposed new visa requirements for Mexican and Czech citizens to deal with a heavy caseload of refugee claims by visitors from the two countries. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said imposing these new rules is necessary to guard against fraudulent immigration claims.

“All too often, people who really need Canada’s protection find themselves in a long line, waiting for months and sometimes years to have their claims heard. This is unacceptable,” Kenney said in a press release.

According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, refugee claims from Mexico have tripled to more than 9,400 within the last four years. The number of Czechs, mostly Roma, claiming refugee status is also up.

But Flores says this sudden announcement causes big headaches for visitors who have already bought their plane tickets and planned their trip in advance. Her friends might not get their money back and have to rebook to another destination, she said.

Yet Flores said she can also see the other side of the argument.

“I know that everybody has a right to look for a better future. But at the same time, I recognize that some people have been taking advantage of what this country offers,” she said.

The Canadian Council for Refugees has been more vocal about its reaction to the announcement. Janet Dench, executive director of the Montreal-based council, told The Catholic Register the new rules are “closing the door” for legitimate refugees who are fleeing persecution. There are significant human rights abuses in Mexico, she said, and many refugees are not coming for economic reasons. Dench added that some have come to Canada and left well-paying jobs because they felt their lives were at risk in Mexico.

Fr. Manuel Galvan, associate pastor at St. Anthony’s, said the new rules could affect a majority of the 200 parishioners who attend the parish’s Spanish Mass. Galvan arrived in Canada from Mexico two years ago, but he said the new rules won’t affect him when he vacations in Mexico in August.

It’s a complicated issue, he said. On the one hand, if people are coming to Canada under false pretenses, then he understands why the new rules are needed.

“But for those who come here to visit their family, it’s a little bit unfair for them,” Galvan said.

Associate pastor Fr. Josue Vargas says this could affect some parishioners at Toronto’s Our Lady of Guadalupe Church who are refugees from Mexico. Vargas arrived in Canada from Guadalajara just before the new rules were implemented, though he won’t be affected as he has a work permit.

“Everybody is not in the same situation,” he said.

But on the other hand, all Mexicans shouldn’t be painted with the same brush because there are many who visit Canada for legitimate purposes and don’t abuse the system, he added.

Meanwhile, in Calgary, recent graduate Monica Lopez says the growing problems in her hometown illustrate why many Mexicans find Canada an attractive country to live in. The crime-related violence in Monterrey is getting worse, she explained, which is why she decided to move back to Canada two months ago.

Lopez, who was completing an internship in Mexico, is a permanent resident of Canada. The 24-year-old mechanical engineer said she turned down a couple of job offers in Mexico because she wants to live in a safer country.

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