Political Leader of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Nazim Burke has said that a recent decision by the Canadian Government to restore visa free travel to Mexican citizens presents a good opportunity for the Keith Mitchell government in St. George’s to re-engage Ottawa on restoring the same privileges for Grenadian citizens.
Burke, who is a Senator in the country’s Parliament, expressed the view Monday while addressing the weekly NDC press conference at the party’s headquarters in St. George’s.
“That privilege (visa free travel to Canada) was denied to Grenadian citizens back in 1991, 1992 when the government, in selling passports had engaged in activities that the Canadian considered undesirable as far as the sale and use of the Grenadian passport is concerned,” Sen. Burke told reporters.
In 2009, Canada’s then Prime Minister Stephen Harper imposed a new visa system on Mexicans to crack down on asylum requests.
The move was allegedly taken to counter the growing number of requests by Mexican citizens who were trying to beat the country’s refugee system.
Harper’s measure soured relations and sparked commercial tensions and Mexican tourism to Canada fell by 40% as a consequence.
Canada’s new Prime Minister Trudeau on June 28 announced his intention to lift the visa requirement for Mexican visitors to Canada beginning December 1, 2016, in an attempt to deepen ties between Canada and Mexico and increase the flow of travellers and businesses between both countries.
Sen. Burke recalled that Grenada’s current Prime Minister, Dr. Mitchell had made a number of promises and assurances in the past that he has engaged and has been engaging the Canadian authorities to discuss this issue.”
However, he noted that to date “we have heard nothing about it.”
Sen. Burke is concerned that the “Charles Liu matter” in which a Chinese national who was accorded Grenadian diplomatic status was charged in the United States with fraud might impact negatively on attempts to get the Canadians to waive the visa requirement on locals.
Liu, who was appointed as the country’s commercial attaché at its embassy in Beijing, is identified as one of the main investors in the 2-billion dollar Grenada Resort Project at Mt. Hartman.
The NDC has not been successful in its call for the Mitchell-led government to revoke Liu’s citizenship and diplomatic status following the recent announcement by the US Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) that the Chinese national was charged with fraud for allegedly violating the regulations of the US EB-5 Immigrant Investor programme.
Sen. Burke said the NDC believes this issue has the “potential to impact in a negative way on Grenadian citizens in general but especially on the young people.”
He charged that the “question of due diligence that is pursued by this government is clearly going to be a factor that the Canadian government is going to take into account in determining whether or not to give favourable consideration to any application or request brought to them.”