The latest travel advisory from the Canadian government is nothing to get bent out of shape about, National Security Minister Marvin Dames said yesterday.
The advisory, which was listed on the Canadian government’s website travel.gc.ca, was updated on December 20 and warned citizens traveling to The Bahamas to exercise a high degree of caution due to incidents of violent crime and sexual assaults and also warned members of the LGBTQ2 (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirit) community to consider the risks of traveling to a country where homosexuality is not widely accepted.
The advisory said that while crime in The Bahamas has decreased, incidents still occur, mainly on Grand Bahama and New Providence.
“I don’t know what they are basing the assault against tourists on. I don’t know where they would have gotten their statistics from, [but] every country has the right to put out an advisory, and this is nothing new,” Dames told The Nassau Guardian.
“After having said that, as you all are aware, serious crimes are the lowest… in probably more than a decade, but yet you still have this. This is their right. We, as a country too, we can do the same thing.
“… These are things that happen frequently around the world. A country could put out an advisory with one incident… As well too, people can perceive something to be a certain way and they can take out a travel advisory. So the thing is not for us to really get all bent out of shape over a travel advisory, but to sit with the Canadians, for example, and say, ‘What are your concerns?’ and then, ‘How do we work to mitigate those concerns?’ And that’s what it’s all about.”
The advisory noted that Canadian travelers should avoid “Nassau’s Over-the-Hill (south of Shirley Street) and Fish Fry (Arawak Cay) areas, especially at night”.
As for LGBTQ2 travelers, the Canadians said that while Bahamian law does not prohibit sexual acts between individuals of the same sex, homosexuality is not widely socially accepted, and LGBTQ2 travelers should carefully consider the risks of traveling to The Bahamas.
Asked whether his ministry plans to meet with representatives of the Canadian government to address the matter, Dames said, “Hopefully we will engage certainly through our Ministry of Foreign Affairs to find out exactly what are the pinch points; why has it gotten to this point, despite the fact that serious crime is the lowest it has been in over a decade, and continues to drop.
“For example, when they talk about Bahamians are not open to homosexuals, that’s not a crime; that’s something outside the scope of policing.
“So obviously this is a broad spectrum of issues that they are bringing to the table.
“Sometimes it’s not the statistics. Sometimes the statistics don’t impact whether people take advisories out or not.
“There is nothing fixed that will determine whether a country takes an advisory out on another country.
“But these things happen frequently around the world, and so what it calls for is a dialogue and communication to see what the issues are, and then we look to see how we can mitigate it. Because, at the end of the day, we want everybody coming to our shores, and we don’t want people to be advised not to, especially given the fact that we are a (tourist) destination.”
Minister of Foreign Affairs Darren Henfield opted not to comment on the matter at this time.
Henfield said he intends to first discuss it with Dames and Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar.