Don’t pack the wrong passport

Scherrer found out too late she needed a visa to visit Mexico


Hélène Scherrer was looking forward to a week’s worth of sunshine when she packed her bags and headed to Mexico last month. What she got instead was a close-up view of the ongoing diplomatic spat between Canada and its southernmost NAFTA partner.

Photograph by Erick Labbé

As soon as she arrived, Scherrer was promptly turned back home. As a former cabinet minister in Paul Martin’s government, Scherrer holds a green-coloured diplomatic passport, meaning she has to get a visa when travelling to Mexico, even though Canadians travelling with ordinary blue passports don’t need one. It was a costly mistake; the former heritage minister figures her aborted holiday cost her about $4,000.

The unusual visa requirement dates back to last July, when Ottawa began requiring Mexicans to obtain tourist visas when visiting Canada in a bid to clamp down on the number of Mexicans making refugee claims. Worried that a similar move might hurt its all-important tourism industry, Mexico retaliated by requiring visas only for those travelling with official or diplomatic passports.

With no end to the squabbling in sight, Canadian officials say travellers will simply have to live with whatever restrictions the Mexican government imposes. “Those holding diplomatic or official passports have a responsibility to stay informed about restrictions on their use abroad,” Peter Kent, the minister of state of foreign affairs, told the House of Commons last Friday.

Scherrer isn’t the first Canadian to see her trip cut short because of the new rules. In February, NDP MP Bruce Hyer was turned away for the same reason. Reports suggest it’s happened about 10 times. “It’s a pity Scherrer didn’t know,” says Alberto Lozano, the press attaché for the Mexican Embassy in Ottawa, noting the visa is free and can take as little as a day to obtain. “It’s an easy procedure.”

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Don’t pack the wrong passport

  1. A big BRAVO for Mexico ! Finally a move that fires back at the ones who pass idiotic legislature.Yes, too many Mexicans apply for refugee status,but only because Canada makes it so easy to do so.They all would rather go to the USA,but there they would promptly be returned to Mexico! Is our NAFTA partner Mexico really persecuting innocent people ? I doubt it ! But Canada offers a higher standard of living, and claiming refugee status is about the only way the ordinary Mexican will ever be allowed to stay in Canada.With an appeal process that can drag on for years his chances for getting permanent resident status are actually pretty good.If Canada is serious about keeping economic refugees out, it should change the applicable legislation! Our Prime Minister is so Right Wing, that Mr Sarcosy looks Left Wing, but Canada's immigration policy is so liberal one would think we are a UN refugee camp! Maybe this visum chicane will wake up some legislators; it certainly hits the right group of people! You made the bed, now sleep in it !!!

  2. Why are former MPs still allowed to use a green diplo passport? Shouldn't they be cancelled upon giving up your seat in the Commons?

    • exactly! It always seems like such arrogance, she just assumed she is such an important person she couldn't possibly be required to get a visa? and i'm sure she uses her special passport to jump the lines in the airport also

      • also, why does a Heritage minister need a diplo passport anyway?

  3. Not smart. She should know that diplomatic passports (Canadian or UN) often require a VISA to enter a foreign country.

    But as others have said, WHY should she even be allowed to keep a Green Passport as she is no longer a Canadian Minister or MP????

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