B.C. can expect boost in Mexican tourists, refugee claimants after visa requirement lifted

December 2, 2016

By Peter O’Neil, Vancouver Sun |

B.C. can look forward to a boost in both tourists and refugee claimants as a result of the federal government’s decision to lift a seven-year-old requirement that all Mexican visitors first obtain visas.

“Everybody is kind of on pins and needles trying to plan, without knowing what the full impact is going to be,” said Chris Friesen, director of settlement programs for the Immigrant Services Society of B.C.

He said the numbers could be substantial as a result of two recent factors — the advent of direct flights between Vancouver and Mexico City starting in 2010, and the recent election of a U.S. president who has vowed to remove large numbers of Mexican migrants and build a wall along the border to keep them from returning.

“If Donald Trump is serious about wanting to deport (large numbers) that could have a significant impact on spontaneous arrivals on the Canada border,” said Friesen, who noted that groups like his might need additional funds to cope.

The grim human rights situation in Mexico will also compel many to fly to Canada and then claim they are fleeing persecution, he added.

Shirley Bond, the B.C. minister of jobs, tourism and skills training, pointed to the economic benefits of the decision.

“We are currently reviewing the level of impact for British Columbia, but we know that these policy changes will also have significant benefit for our province in the tourism sector,” she told Postmedia in a prepared statement.

“The visa issue has been identified as a barrier to expanding the tourism visitors from Mexico, and we are confident that we will see increased visits continuing the momentum we are currently experiencing with record international tourism numbers.”

Earlier Thursday, Conservative MP Michelle Rempel cited during Question Period a federal government analysis indicating that the Trudeau government’s visa decision will cost taxpayers $433.5 million over 10 years.

That money will be needed to fund “program integrity” measures and “enforcement activities” needed to screen out bogus claimants, as well as cover other costs associated with an expected hike in asylum claims.

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