Conditional Permanent Residence: Failure in Policy and Practice

Media release

For immediate release

28 October 2015

Conditional Permanent Residence: Failure in Policy and Practice

Three years after the introduction of Conditional Permanent Residence for some sponsored spouses, the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) concludes that the measure has increased the vulnerability of many sponsored newcomers, particularly victims of domestic violence.  The CCR bases its conclusion on consultation with over 140 organizations across Canada.

“Conditional Permanent Residence is bad for women,” said Loly Rico, CCR President. “It gives more power to abusive sponsors and makes it harder for newcomer women to leave an unhealthy relationship.”

Under the Conditional Permanent Residence rules, some sponsored spouses risk being stripped of their permanent residence and deported from Canada if they separate from their spouse within two years of receiving permanent residence. The rules include an exception for cases of abuse or neglect.  Many organizations, including the CCR, had expressed concerns about the rules and questioned the effectiveness of the exception.

To investigate the impacts of Conditional Permanent Residence, the CCR reached out to over 140 settlement organizations, legal clinics, and women’s shelters across the country. The key findings are:

  • Many organizations do not fully understand the implications of Conditional Permanent Residence and many are unaware of, or have wrong information about, the exception for victims of abuse or neglect.
  • There are many practical and administrative barriers to accessing the exception, causing significant stress among those affected, and leading some to remain in abusive situations rather than apply for the exception.
  • It is difficult to access the exception without the support of an advocate – a front-line worker or a lawyer.  Many newcomers are isolated and do not have this crucial support.
  • The process of applying for the exception has sometimes resulted in retraumatization, due to reported lack of sensitivity training of CIC officials, and long delays in processing.

“We have encountered many difficulties in assisting women trying to apply for the exception: the CIC procedure is unclear, officials are difficult to get a hold of and some seem to lack basic training on gender violence. Women are often retraumatized by the experience”, said Rathika Vasavithasan of the Barbra Schlifer Clinic.

“In addition to unacceptably trapping people in abusive relationships, this measure has created a huge waste of resources, with front-line workers and lawyers spending time supporting victims of abuse to contact CIC, gather evidence, and follow up throughout the process”, stated Deepa Mathoo of the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario, adding: “Conditional permanent residence is unnecessary and harmful.”

The CCR welcomes the incoming government’s commitment to repealing Conditional Permanent Residence and looks forward to the early fulfilment of this Liberal campaign promise to eliminate this unnecessary and harmful measure that disproportionately affects women.

For more information, see Conditional Permanent Residence: Failure in Policy and Practice at

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Colleen French, Communication Coordinator, Canadian Council for Refugees, 514-277-7223, ext. 1, 514-602-2098 (cell),