Remove Mexico from 'Safe Countries' List, Activists Urge Canada

TORONTO, April 23, 2015 /CNW/ - Advocates for students who disappeared in one of Mexico's state-sanctioned atrocities are in Toronto this week as part of a campaign to urge the Canadian government to recognize the human rights crisis in Mexico.

The Mexican delegation is part of a national movement of resistance that has emerged in Mexico following the Sept. 26, 2014, disappearances of 43 student activists from the Ayotzinapa Teachers' College in the city of Iguala.

Three students were killed and dozens were injured when they were attacked by state police and gunmen. The bodies of the disappeared students have not been found and the Mexican government has not provided any credible answers. Search efforts have uncovered more than 15 mass graves of other victims in neighbouring areas of the state of Guerrero. 

The Mexican delegation touring Canada includes Hilda Legideño Vargas, a single mother who is among family members struggling to find out what happened to their loved ones on Sept. 26. Her son Jorge Antonio was one of the students who 'was disappeared.'

The delegation also includes Jorge Luis Clemente Balbuena, a member of the Ayotzinapa college's students' committee, and Isidoro Vicario Aguilar of the Tlachinollan Centre for Human Rights.

The delegation is bringing attention to Mexico's brutal landscape of violence and human rights abuses carried out with impunity through alliances between elements of the Mexican state and organized crime.

The delegation is urging the Canadian government to acknowledge and respond to the human rights crisis in Mexico. On April 28, it will testify on Parliament Hill before the federal Subcommittee for International Human Rights.

As part of the Make Mexico Safe movement, the delegation will ask the Canadian government to remove Mexico from its Designated Countries of Origin, or 'safe countries' list.

The Conservative government created the safe list in 2012. Citizens of countries on the list have decreased ability to seek asylum in Canada because it is assumed their countries "do not normally produce refugees, but do respect human rights and offer state protection."

"Mexico is really not safe for anyone," said Legideño Vargas, adding Canada is playing a critical role in supporting the climate of violence in Mexico that led to the disappearances of her son and other students. 

Removing Mexico from the list would send a message to the Mexican government that Canada does not tolerate state-sanctioned human rights abuses, and that the Mexican government has a responsibility to protect its citizens.

Mexico is Canada's fifth-largest export destination. In 2012, trade between Mexico and Canada totaled $20 billion.

The Steelworkers Humanity Fund, Amnesty International and Common Frontiers are sponsoring the Mexican delegation's Canadian tour.

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Mexican activists' Toronto itinerary:

April 24, 12:30 p.m., luncheon sponsored by Steelworkers Humanity Fund, Amnesty International and Common Frontiers, 234 Eglinton Ave. E.

April 24, 6:00 p.m., community walk with delegation from Mexican consulate, beginning at 11 King St. W. and proceeding to Parroquia San Esteban, 19 Trinity Square, Followed by cultural event and solidarity night at the Parroquia.

April 29, 7:00 p.m., forum with leaders of Mexican Social Uprising – Ayotzinapa to Toronto, Ryerson University, 350 Victoria Street (at Gould), Library Lecture Theatre, Room 72.

SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)

For further information: Laura Ramirez, Steelworkers Humanity Fund, 416-876-2502, lramirez@usw.ca; Raul Burbano, Common Frontiers, 416-522-8615, burbano@rogers.com

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