By Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press November 29, 2012
The end of a much-maligned visa for Mexican travellers to Canada would be a good thing for both North American countries, Prime Minister Stephen Harper affirmed Wednesday.
Harper offered his government’s most conciliatory view to the visa that it imposed in 2009 to stop an influx of bogus refugee claimants. It came after his Parliament Hill meeting with Mexico’s president-elect Enrique Pena Nieto.
Mexico was stung by the visa requirement, viewing it as heavy-handed and unexpected.
“We would ultimately like to see visa-free travel with Mexico,” Harper said at a joint news conference, standing next to the new, young telegenic Mexican leader, who will be sworn in Saturday as president.
But first, the government is working to change its immigration system first so there is not a recurrence of past problems, Harper added.
“We have changed laws. We’re in the process of changing our systems,” said Harper.
It would be in the interest of both countries to get rid of the visa, he added.
Pena Nieto acknowledged the Canadian rationale for imposing the visa, breaking with the harder line against it taken by his predecessor Felipe Calderon, who is completing the single six-year term that Mexico’s constitution allows.
“As Mr. Harper said, this is the result of excessive refugee claims that were perhaps unfounded – citizens of our country who claimed refugee status, which got them access to social security benefits in this country.”
Pena Nieto said he asked about the Canadian legislative changes during his meeting with Harper. “I do hope that once the legislation is approved in the near future we will be able to avoid this requirement.”
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