September 2, 2011
Member of Parliament,
Government of Canada,
Hello Ms. Grewal,
Canadian Government Mexico Travel Advisory – Is this simply fear mongering or a responsible response?
Thank you for taking the time to meet with me earlier this spring, a meeting I requested to discuss your governments Travel Advisory regarding Mexico and the adverse impact this is having on RV tourism, particularly on Baja California. Please know this Travel Advisory is having a devastating effect on the people and economy of Baja, particularly those who rely on RV Tourism, such as RV Parks, Campgrounds, Tour & Guide Companies, Restaurants, Vendors and many other stakeholders.
Please know we were alarmed by the Canadian Travel Advisory because on review it seemed very similar, and in some parts identical, to the American Travel Advisory issued prior. This “Cut & Paste” approach, given the adverse impact on Mexico tourism and our relationship with our NAFTA partner, seems both callous and thoughtless. The Government’s statement “The Travel Warning is still valid as attacks and murders still happen on highways along the border and inside the border states.” that included Baja California continues to mystify us. What was and is particularly troubling, is that Foreign Affairs Canada refused to disclose or verify any of the incidents referred to regarding Baja California. As you will recall, at the time we met I raised with you our belief this Travel Advisory was akin to “fear mongering” and the resulting “media campaign” was unfair and hurtful to the entire tourism industry on Baja and in Mexico.
Your response to our meeting to date has been to provide an eleven (11) point note that purports to support your governments Mexico Travel Advisory issued by Foreign Affairs. I have now had time to review this information and “facts” and offer the following comment and analysis;
- Since 2006, the Mexican government has engaged in an extensive effort to combat criminal organizations
As you know both Canada and the United States governments have been engaged in the same protracted and extensive efforts to combat criminal organizations for many years, even before 2006
- More than 15,000 narcotics-related homicides occurred in 2010
On average over 31,000 Americans die from gun violence every year, including last year 2010. The majority of these deaths are drug related. Over 2,000 children and teens are murdered every year in the US, including last year 2010.
- Most victims, of course, are gang members, but innocent people have also died
This happens here in our own backyard of Surrey, BC. We are confident you recall the Surrey 6 murders at the apartment building across from the King George Sky Train Station, where 2 innocent bystanders (Ed Schellenberg & Chris Mohan) were caught up in the execution killing of 4 gang members.
- Last year alone, 111 Americans died (in Mexico)
We have had an opportunity to drill down on these numbers, it appears only a few of these appear to be tourists, none of them are RVers. The majority are those persons directly involved in the “War on Drugs” (ie) in law enforcement, and yet others can hardly be described as innocent victims, like the guy who was murdered in a Mexican prison doing hard time or the guy who was shot when he ran a Military checkpoint with drugs in his truck.
- The number of Canadian victims, needless-to say, is far less. Still 112 Canadians have been killed in Mexico since the crack down on gangs in 2006
Wow, I must say that sounds bad! I had no idea that 112 Canadians have been murdered in Mexico since 2006, because killed sounds like murdered to me. Upon investigation we found this headline and story “According to Foreign Affairs Canada, 112 Canadians have been killed in accidents, murders, drowning or suicides since Mexico started an aggressive war against it’s various drug cartels in Feb. 2006. From that number, 15 Canadians were murdered or died in suspicious deaths.” Hmm, I was born at night but not last night, sounds like someone is supporting an agenda here. Some may even characterize the Point 5 statement as sensationalizing, perhaps even intellectually dishonest.
- Suspicious deaths in the northern border region have included the couple who had their throats slashed in their hotel room, a 29-year-old Vancouver man shot to death in his hotel in an attempted robbery, and, last year, a man shot and killed in an attempted carjacking
Dominic Laniero, 59, and his wife Nancy, 55, of Woodbridge, Ont., near Toronto, were found in their room at a five-star resort near Playa del Carmen on Feb. 20, 2006, with their throats slashed. Please know Playa del Carmen is almost 3,000 km from the US border. Bouabal Bounthavorn Ingo, 29, a Laos-born Canadian from Burnaby, was gunned down in May 2008 while staying at Hotel Riu Santa Fe in Cabo San Lucas. Police believe the alleged assailants under arrest (an American & Mexican) entered Bounthavorn’s room after knocking on an adjoining door and claiming to be from the hotel. They used a 9-mm handgun in the attack and shot him in the head 3 times (Sounds more like an execution to me). Please know Cabo San Lucas is 1750 km from the Mexican/American border. Kenneth Klowak, 43, was reportedly in Mexico to build trails for hikers and mountain bikers at a local resort when he was killed in an attempted carjacking. The shooting took place in the state of Coahuila, about 65 kilometres from Eagle Pass, a Texas border town. My brother in law was carjacked and assaulted (fortunately not killed) in the Home Depot parking lot near the Scott Road SkyTrain Station in Surrey where he works. This was at 10 am 2 years ago, in the morning while he was having a smoke and coffee. The assailants were identified and arrested on other charges; they have never been charged or convicted for the crimes against my brother in law.
- There have been extreme levels of violence in the northern border regions, including the northern part of Baja California. It’s not just the Americans and Canadians making this claim: the Mexican government admits to the problem as well
Really? Where on Baja California? The Canadian and American governments keep stating this as fact however Foreign Affairs continue to refuse to provide any examples. Has this ever involved tourists or RVers? We work closely with the Discover Baja Travel Club in San Diego, California and the Baja Good Life Club headquartered in San Felipe, Baja California and this is news to them as well.
- In late 2010, criminal groups in northern Baja California were engaged in turf battles. Again, the violence is between group members, but innocent bystanders have been injured. There have been daylight shootings in Tijuana in areas frequented by tourists.
In August 2011, notorious gangster Jonathon Bacon and several others were gunned down (with machine guns) at a very popular Kelowna tourist destination in BC. This occurred at the 5 Star Delta Hotel & Casino, at the front entrance in broad daylight on a very busy Sunday afternoon at 3pm. How none of the 1,000 plus guests were not injured during this mayhem is nothing short of miraculous.
- The US government has responded by imposing restrictions on US government employees and their families traveling in the northern border region. They don’t want people driving from the US-Border to the interiors.
We actually think this is sage advice. The US “War” with the Drug Cartels has certainly made these folks, including their families targets. What would be really helpful is for the Americans to stop selling all the guns, including automatic weapons, to the Mexican Drug Cartels.
- While the news coming out of Mexico might give Canadians an exaggerated idea of the level of danger, we cannot deny the violence is happening. The drug cartels are making it dangerous to visit some parts of Mexico.
Please know there is other violence happening in North America although not widely reported outside of specific regions. For example the LA Times reports 390 murders have been committed just in LA County from January 1, 2011 to August 28, 2011 and if you look at the period from January 1, 2007 to June 20, 2011 the total is an alarming 3563 murders. (See http://projects.latimes.com/homicide/map/) Please know both Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm, major tourist destinations, are located in LA County If this information was widely reported to Canadians do you believe this would result in an exaggerated idea of the level of danger in Los Angeles?
- It would be irresponsible for the government not to advise Canadians on what measures to take. We are not telling people not to go, but rather to look out for danger and avoid unsafe places and situations.
We also believe the Canadian Government should also be responsible. Please know we abhor violence wherever it occurs. All the death, murder and mayhem happening across North America is sad, tragic and heartbreaking for sure, particularly for the families that have to pick up the pieces and try to carry on. However, given the realities of the level of violence in both Canada and the US we believe it is fundamentally unfair and irresponsible to characterize Mexico as a particularly dangerous country to visit.
One last point, sadly Lyle and Marie McCann (RVers) were declared dead this past summer after they had been missing and presumed murdered in July of 2010. The Motorhome of the Alberta couple from St. Albert was found burned to the ground in a wooded area near Edson, Alberta shortly after they had left home to travel to British Columbia. This kind of incident, where RVers go missing, never to be found, has never happened in Mexico.
We urge you to speak to your government and officials at Foreign Affairs and respectfully request them to utilize better judgement and discretion before issuing yet another unfair and inflammatory “Mexico Travel Advisory” that generates sensational headlines and has more to do with appeasing our American neighbour’s interests than keeping Canadians safe.
Dan & Lisa Goy
Baja Amigos RV Caravan Tours
Surrey Board Of Trade Member
James (Jim) Sherb, Canadian Snowbird Association 2nd VP, Government Relations
Sarah Galashan, Reporter, CTV News
Kevin Diakiw, Staff Reporter, Surrey Leader
Tom Zytaruk, Staff Reporter, Surrey Now
*Dan was a Ministerial Assistant to a former Tourism, Small Business and Culture Minister in a past Province of British Columbia Government