Citizenship scandal erupts for Mexican senator who ran union while exiled in B.C.

Sen. Napoleon Gomez Urrutia, who fled to Canada in 2006 and returned to Mexico 12 years later, faces questions about whether he properly renounced Canadian citizenship before holding office in his native country | Facebook

Sen. Napoleon Gomez Urrutia (right) with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador | Submitted

Mexican media is abuzz about the citizenship of the mining union leader who lived 12 years in exile in the Lower Mainland before going home to become a senator.

Napoleon Gomez Urrutia fled north in 2006 and became a Canadian in 2014. In February 2018, he was nominated to the senate and returned to Mexico for his August 2018 swearing-in. Senators in Mexico must be Mexican-born and have no other citizenship.

According to a translation of a March 31 Reforma news agency story in El Diario, Gomez Urrutia “did not carry out any kind of procedure in Canada to renounce the citizenship of that country.”

The story quoted Gomez Urrutia’s March 4, 2021, testimony to the 14th District Court on Administrative Matters: "I renounced any foreign nationality before the authorities that I consider to be competent, which in the case are the Mexican ones, not the Canadian ones [...] it was not necessary to carry out procedures in Canada.”

To renounce Canadian citizenship, a person must deal directly with Canadian officials. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada requires a $100 payment and completed application with proof one is or will become a citizen of a country other than Canada, will not live in Canada, be at least 18 years old and is not a security threat. The application form is available online and, for those not living in Canada or the U.S., must be submitted to a Canadian embassy, high commission or consulate.

An email query to Gomez Urrutia’s office did not elicit a reply before deadline.

Questions about Gomez Urrutia’s citizenship status erupted more than two years ago after he was photographed at Vancouver International Airport. Gomez Urrutia and his wife, Oralia Casso, flew first class on a Jan. 2, 2020, Aeromexico flight from Mexico City to Vancouver and presented dark blue-covered Canadian passports. Mexico’s are dark green.

Gomez Urrutia was head of the National Union of Mine, Metal, Steel and Allied Workers of the Mexican Republic, better known as Los Mineros, when he fled with his family to Vancouver in 2006. He blamed mining company Grupo Mexico and the Mexican government for “industrial homicide” after an explosion at a coal mine earlier that year in Coahuila killed 65 workers. He was charged for allegedly embezzling USD$55 million from a union trust fund that had been dissolved in 2005. Gomez denied the allegations. In 2014, a Mexican appeal court deemed the charges unconstitutional and cancelled an arrest warrant.

Gomez Urrutia continued to run Los Mineros from afar and enjoyed the support of Unifor and the United Steelworkers. Elections BC’s database shows he made seven donations to the BC NDP, from 2009 to 2017, totalling $2,680. Oxford-educated Gomez Urrutia succeeded his father as the union’s leader in 2000, but never worked in a mine.

In 2018, Gomez Urrutia triumphantly returned to Mexico when he was appointed a senator under that country’s mixed member proportional representation system after the election of new president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. At the time, Gomez Urrutia claimed he had renounced his Canadian citizenship. When he started his six-year term, Gomez said he wanted to reconstruct Mexico and fight corruption.