Statement on Proposed “Conditional Permanent Residence” for sponsored spouses

We the undersigned oppose the proposal to introduce a “conditional” permanent residence period of two years or more for sponsored spouses and partners who have been in a relationship of two years or less with their sponsors. The proposed change, published in the Canada Gazette, 26 March 2011, states that if the sponsored spouse/partner does not remain in a bona fide relationship with their sponsor during the conditional period, their permanent residence could be revoked.

We believe that introducing “conditional permanent residence” would represent a major step backwards in Canadian immigration policy, would increase inequalities in relationships between spouses, and would put women in particular at heightened risk of violence.

These are some of the main concerns associated with the proposal:

  • Making permanent residency for the sponsored partner conditional puts all the power into the hands of the sponsor, who can use the precarity of the partner’s status as a tool for manipulation – at any time, the sponsor can declare the spouse fraudulent. This can be a constant threat and source of fear for the sponsored person, who faces the risk of being deported.
  • This power imbalance affects all sponsored partners, regardless of the “genuineness” of relationship, and reinforces unequal gendered power dynamics.
  • Making permanent residency conditional on staying in the marriage for two years traps women in abusive relationships for fear of losing their status.
  • Children will also be hurt, for example when they remain with their parent in an abusive home, or if they face being separated from one parent if the sponsored parent is removed from Canada.
  • The suggestion that some cases would be “targeted for fraud” raises fears of possible racial, national or ethnic stereotyping and discrimination, and of malicious denunciations.

According to the notice, a process would be developed to allow sponsored spouses in abusive situations to come forward without facing enforcement action. This is not a solution. Given that many sponsored immigrants, especially women, have little knowledge of their rights, it is not realistic to suggest that they would come forward to the immigration authorities to report an abusive relationship.  It is also unfair to place the burden of proof of abuse on the abused woman.

The notice mentions that similar policies are already in place in the UK, Australia and the U.S. Experts in those countries have reported that conditional status creates the problems mentioned above, putting women at risk and giving increased power to abusive sponsors.

Given the lack of evidence that “marriage fraud” is a widespread problem, it is unfortunate that the government is exploring this proposal, which would create another barrier to family reunification. We urge Citizenship and Immigration Canada to turn its attention instead to reducing the existing barriers to family reunification, including the unacceptably long processing delays in too many regions of the world.

We are also concerned that characterizing relationship breakdown as marriage fraud adds to the increasingly negative portrayal by the government of newcomers, and thus increases xenophobic tendencies within society.

Statement signed by:

Canadian Council for Refugees
Agence Ometz
Aids Committee of Guelph and Wellington County
Alliance pour l'accueil et l'intégration des immigrants-es (ALAC)
Amnesty International Canada - English-speaking section
Assaulted Women's and Children's Counselor/Advocate Program at George Brown College
Asian Heritage Society of New Brunswick (AHSNB)
Assistance aux femmes de Montréal
Battered Women's Support Services
Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres (CASAC)
Canadian Migration Institute (CMI)
Carrefour d'aide aux nouveaux arrivants (CANA)
Carrefour de liaison et d'aide multi-éthnique
Carrefour de ressources en interculturel (CRIC)
Centre d'Action SIDA Montréal (Femmes) (CASM)
Centre de Femmes du Témiscamingue
Centre de femmes Entre Ailes Ste-Julie
Centre de femmes l’Autonomie en soiE
Centre de femmes l'Éclaircie (La Prairie)
Centre de femmes l'Érige
Centre de femmes l'Essentielle
Centre de femmes Marie-Dupuis
Centre de ressources éducatives et communautaires pour adultes CRÉCA
Centre des femmes de la Basse-Ville
Centre des femmes de Verdun
Centre des femmes d'ici et d'ailleurs
Centre des femmes italiennes de Montréal
Chinese Canadian National Council (CCNC)
Comité d'accueil international des Bois-Francs (CAIBF)
Comité d'action contre la traite humaine interne et internationale (CATHII)
Committee to Aid Refugees
Community Legal Services of Niagara South
Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd (English sub-region)
Dixon Transition Society
Downtown Legal Services
FCJ Refugee Centre (Toronto)
Federation CJA Social Advocacy Committee
Fédération des femmes du Québec
Femmes du monde à Côte-des-Neiges
Global Alliance for Traffic in Women - Canada (GAATW-Canada)
Howe Sound Women's Centre, Squamish, BC
Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba Inc. (IRCOM Inc.)
Immigrant Settlement & Integration Services (ISIS)
Immigrant Women Services Ottawa
La Collective des femmes de Nicolet et région
La Maison d'hébergement pour femmes francophones
La Maison Flora Tristan
La Marie Debout, Centre d'éducation des femmes
Le Centre Au Cœur des femmes
LEGIT: Canadian Immigration for Same-Sex Partners
Ligue des droits et libertés
Maison d’hébergement la Volte Face, Victoriaville
Maison de Lina, Lina’s Home
Maison des femmes des Bois-Francs
Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council Inc.
Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence against Women and Children (METRAC)
Mississauga Community Legal Services
Montreal City Mission
Movement Against Rape and Incest
National Indo-Canadians Council
New Starts for Women
Northwood Neighbourhood Services
OCASI: Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses (OAITH)
Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women
Parkdale Community Legal Services (PCLS)
Project Genesis
Project Refuge Maison Haidar
Quaker Committee for Refugees
Regroupement des maisons pour femmes victimes de violence conjugale
Regroupement Québécois des Centres d'aide et de lutte contre les agressions à caractère sexuel (RQ-Calacs)
Réseau d'action pour l'égalité des femmes immigrées et racisées (RAFIQ)
SACHA, the Sexual Assault Centre (Hamilton and Area)
Service d’aide aux Néo-Canadiens
Sistering “A Woman Drop-in”
South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario (SALCO)
South Asian Women's Community Centre (SAWCC)
Springtide Resources, Inc.
Surrey Women’s Centre
Table de concertation des organismes au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrantes (TCRI)
Table des groupes de femmes de Montréal
The Cridge Centre for the Family
Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter
West Coast Women's Legal Education and Action Fund
YWCA Canada
YWCA Toronto