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This week’s featured development as Newsmaker of the Week just ended is the Government of Canada warning its citizens about travelling to Jamaica, due to what it claimed is the “high level of violent crime” on the island.
The travel advisory relative to Jamaica by Canada has been cited as ‘ironic’ by many citizens, given the fact that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and members of his immediate family are presently vacationing in the island.
Some have even blamed the travel advisory on the Jamaican Government, pointing to the perceived negative perceptions from the three states of emergency (SOEs) that have been imposed since November, the latest of which was imposed on Wednesday, December 28, the same day the Canadian authorities updated its travel advisory for the island.
It is the second such advisory issued by the Canadian authorities for Jamaica this month, following the one that was issued in early December, shortly after SOEs were imposed in eight parishes on December 6.
At the time, stakeholders in the tourism industry said they were not surprised by that advisory.
In fact, senior strategist in the Tourism Ministry, Delano Seiveright, called the then advisory “nothing new”, arguing that it was unlikely to negatively affect the country’s tourism industry.
“Nothing new,” said Delano Seiveright of the Tourism Ministry.
He said then, as well, that despite many advisories over the years, even from the United States, visitors and potential travellers to Jamaica “understand that in every country there are some parts that are not particularly safe, and there are some areas that are very safe.”
His point appears to have been proven, given the boom in the arrival of overseas travellers and celebrities in the ongoing winter tourism season.
Other popular personalities who have vacationed in Jamaica for the season so far include: American rapper Cardi B and her husband Offset; Golden Globe Award-winning actress and daughter of famed songstress, Diana Ross, Tracee Ellis Ross; African entertainer Burna Boy; and American actor John Amos and his film director son, K C Amos.
Interestingly, the Canadian prime minister now adds to a long list of prominent international figures and celebrities to visit the island this winter.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
As such, Jamaicans have expressed skepticism over the Canadian authorities’ travel advisory.
According to the Government of Canada’s travel advice and advisory notices which were updated on Wednesday, December 28, the SOEs “will be in effect until January 11, 2023.”
The emergency measures were declared in Kingston, St Andrew, St Catherine, Clarendon, St Ann, Hanover, Westmoreland and St James.
The Canadian government said the measure was “reinstated” in those parishes “due to increased violence and gang-related crime”.
It said “During this period (of the SOEs), security forces have increased rights to conduct searches, seizures and detain persons of interest.”
The Canadian authorities further cautioned its citizens that if they are travelling to the areas under the emergency measure, they “may be subject to searches” by security forces.
It also advised travellers to:
“Always co-operate with military and police officers
“Carry valid ID (identification) at all times and be prepared for various checkpoints
“Allow extra time to reach your destination
“Follow the instructions of local authorities
“Monitor local news to stay informed on the current situation.”
In relation to violent crime, the Canadian travel notice said such incidents, “including armed robbery and murder, (pose) a problem in large cities and tourist areas, including parts of Kingston and Montego Bay, despite the presence of police to counter criminal activities.”
It added that, “The availability of firearms is widespread and most violent drug-and-gang-related crimes, especially murder, involve firearms.
“There is a risk of becoming the victim of crossfire in these areas. Tourists are also at risk of crimes of opportunity, especially theft and robberies.
“Crimes tend to be concentrated within what the police refer to as ‘traditional hot spots’ or ‘high-risk communities’, but can take place anywhere and at any time.”
The advisory pointed to areas such as Arnett Gardens and Denham Town and other places in Montego Bay in St James, and in St Catherine, as having significant gang populations and high incidences of violent crime.
The authorities further warned Canadians of other crimes, among them being petty offences, and sexual assault of especially women, along with credit card and ATM fraud.
But several Jamaicans have been left questioning such advice from the authorities in Canada.
Responding to the advisory, Yvonne Campbell-Bailey wrote on Facebook: “Yet their prime minister vacation here this week”.
Another Facebook user, Octavious Vinci III, asked: “Then why is their most important individual here?… smh…
“I always find these things strange, still Jamaica is always in the top 3 most visited Caribbean islands by tourists year after year,” he commented further.
Another social media user, Cake Soap, asked rhetorically: “Where is the Canadian Prime Minister right now?????”
In response to that question, Kadene Loren Clarke, said: “Cake Soap, on the island that he (his government) is warning about.”
Buce Whyte sought to put his own spin on the issuance of the travel advisory.
“There is a stark difference between their (Canada’s) PM (prime minister) being here and regular citizens being warned,” he suggested.
“Firstly, this trip would have being planned long before it was announced, so that the Jamaican Government could put in the necessary protocols and security measures for the protection of the Canadian PM.
“The average Canadian would not be given the same protection from the Canadian government, nor would they have necessary resources to hire their own private security. Just as how Andrew (Holness) is given protection when overseas, while we the regular citizen are not,” Whyte stated.
Sonia Millington, another Facebook user, had a different view on the matter.
“Whether he (the Canadian prime minister) gets top security or not, you can’t warn someone about not visiting a place and you still go or going; it doesn’t make sense…,” she opined.
“It’s like telling someone smoking kills, but you still doing it because you say you big,” she indicated.
Opined Rachell Dias: “Andrew (Holness) nuh see seh the SOE nah work? All him a do a give Jamaica bad name all because him nuh have a crime plan.
“The police and soldiers are tired of it. God a show you sign seh it nah wuk…,” she wrote.
Likewise, Sade Forrest commented that, “The constant SOEs a paint a bad light on the country, and make it seems we can’t control crime. Enough is enough.”
The now familiar settings at security checkpoints amid states of emergency (SOEs) across sections of the island.
There were also questions on the issuance of the advisory on Twitter.
@Jodizzle_jjo tweeted: “Canada issues a travel advisory against Jamaica, but the Prime Minister of the same country is here on vacation. Help me to understand.”
Another Twitter user, @jody_anderson09, wrote: “Smaddy enlighten mi cause mi confused.
“How Canada a issue travel advisory against Jamaica, but di Prime Minister of said country is here vacationing??? Contradictory much?” she asked.
However, @TamiAlexsis shared: “Just saw a tweet calling Justin Trudeau a hypocrite for vacationing in Jamaica while Canada has travel advisory out.
“An advisory is a RECOMMENDATION. Have you seen the murder rate (in Jamaica)?” she asked rhetorically.
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