A senior Mexican senator and former foreign affairs minister yesterday called Canada's visa controls on Mexico a humiliation and questioned whether Canadian-Mexican relations will improve as long as Stephen Harper is Prime Minister.
In a blunt speech to a Toronto business and academic gathering, Senator Rosario Green Macias detailed the information she was required to provide to the Canadian government to enter Canada - proof of property ownership, her last six bank statements, a letter from the Mexican senate stating she is a senator and personal information about other members of her family.
"That has to stop," said Ms. Green, who is president of the external relations commission of Mexico's senate, an academic, a former secretary-general of Mexico's Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and a one-time senior United Nations official as well as diplomat and cabinet minister.
She wore a silk scarf with a Mountie emblem, a gift from her daughter who attended private school in Quebec's Eastern Townships.
She repeatedly told her audience that the Mexican-Canada relationship is troubled. Twice she used the word "humiliating" to describe Canada's visa controls, linking them to the wall - which she also called a humiliation - that the United States is building along the U.S.-Mexican border to keep out illegal migrant Mexicans.
Later, talking to journalists, she said the relationship will improve "when you change prime ministers," then realized what she'd said and asked not to be quoted.
The two journalists who heard her did not give her that assurance and Ms. Green did not press her request.
Canada imposed visa requirements on Mexicans in July after a huge upsurge in the number of Mexicans arriving in Canada and claiming refugee status.
Ottawa said most of the claims were bogus and had been orchestrated by unscrupulous Mexican firms giving advice on how to take advantage of Canada's asylum system.
They were blocking the Canadian refugee assessment process, said Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.
Ms. Green, who spoke at the launch of a joint forum by Mexican and Canadian non-government policy institutes to improve relations between the two countries, said the Canadian government first should have proposed a study with the Mexican government to resolve the problem before suddenly imposing visas.
Mexico, she said, was working on curbing illegal migrants.
She criticized the media's portrait of Mexico as nothing more than a society of illegal migration, drugs and violence, and she said her fellow citizens found it amazing that Mexican asylum seekers in Canada were claiming their government couldn't protect them from the drug wars and corrupt and abusive security forces.
Ms. Green also said the North American free-trade agreement should be re-launched with a new attitude that recognized Mexico as an equal partner with Canada and the U.S. and not as an irritant.
On Monday, Bill Graham, Canada's former foreign affairs minister, will speak in Mexico City on the bilateral relationship. The forum is sponsored by the Canadian Foundation for the Americas (FOCAL) and the Consejo Mexicano de Asuntos Internacionales (COMEXI).