Our riding and province were honoured last weekend when the Government of Mexico invited me to accompany Canada’s two official representatives to the inauguration of Mexico’s new young president, Enrique Pena Nieto. Prime Minister Harper chose well in sending Governor-General David Johnston and Diane Ablonczy, our Minister of State for International Affairs.
Two particular cases that I had to deal with, as I thrive on working for the people of this riding, partly led me to get elected as president of the 70-strong Canada-Mexico Parliamentary Friendship Group and to my being in Mexico City.
One episode was the unfortunate distress caused a Sunshine Coast family when our government was forced to impose a visa requirement on Mexican nationals seeking to come to Canada in 2009. The Mexican nationals, able to arrive visa-free on our border, became the No. 1 source of unsubstantiated refugee claims. The abuse led to tens of millions of dollars in costs to Canadians as we footed the bill for legal claims, and health and welfare needs of the abusers. The visa system is still in place and we have overhauled the refugee program to cut down on abuses. Prime Minister Harper last week expressed his desire “in the mid-term” to move away from the visa requirement again as the situation improves.
The second episode was a North Shore resident who spent over three years in Mexican jails navigating opaque legal procedures before finally being released for lack of any relevant evidence against him.
From that vantage point, I have urged our government to be mindful of people like those touched by the stories above. Our government has taken concrete steps to help improve the security situation in Mexico, sending judges and lawyers to help professionalize Mexico’s judiciary and police.
Our role in improving human rights and the rule of law in Mexico is not widely known but may be one of our best recent success stories in our foreign affairs.
Mexico’s government has acknowledged our efforts, most recently during President Pena Nieto’s inauguration ceremonies. I take these as signs that the new Mexican leadership is committed to continue to work with Canada, with our executive and legislative branches, not only on human rights and security issues, but across an array of economic and other issues.
In the words of our Governor-General last Saturday in Mexico, “It is very important to Canada and the world that Mexico be successful.” I believe that success is now well underway.
John Weston, M.P.
West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country