TORONTO, April 25 /CNW/ - Toronto refugee and immigrants rights groups,
legal clinics, and women's organizations are calling on all federal
parties to reject a proposed change to Canada's immigration law that
will make women more vulnerable to violence and abuse.
The proposal by Citizenship and Immigration Canada will impose a
"conditional" permanent residence period of two years or more on
sponsored spouses and partners, who have been in a relationship of two
years or less with their sponsors. The majority of sponsored spouses
and partners are women. Even if the relationship is abusive, violent or
unhappy, the sponsored immigrant will be forced to stay in a
relationship with the sponsor for a minimum of two years.
"This proposal represents a major step backwards in Canadian immigration
policy. It would increase inequalities in the relationship between
spouses, and would put women in particular at heightened risk of
violence" said Avvy Go, Clinic Director of Metro Toronto Chinese and
Southeast Asian Legal Services. "We are also concerned about the
potential impact on children born into these relationships. Will the
children be forced to choose between staying in Canada with one of the
parents, or leave with the one who is being deported?" she asked.
"The proposal appears to be the Government's response to the lobbying
efforts by certain groups of sponsors - most of whom are male - who
allege that they have been victims of marriage fraud; yet investigation
of many of these cases reveal "fraud" is often not at play while
spousal abuse is," said Shalini Konanur, South Asian Legal Clinic of
Ontario. "Since the Government is unable to verify the real extent of
'marriage fraud', we question the necessity for having yet another
requirement attached to spousal sponsorship and how much it will cost
to enforce it."
"Making permanent residency for the sponsored partner conditional puts
all the power into the hands of the sponsor, and forces the sponsored
immigrant woman to live in constant threat and fear of deportation,"
said Sarah Blackstock, Director of Advocacy & Communications, YWCA
Citizenship and Immigration Canada has suggested that a process would be
developed to allow sponsored spouses in abusive situations to come
forward without facing enforcement action.
"Justice Canada itself has acknowledged that spousal abuse is often
hidden and that a person who is abused may take a long time before
seeking support. Further, many women sponsored as spouses are often
unaware of their rights and may face other challenges in reporting
abuse. Therefore it is unrealistic to think that they would come
forward to the immigration authorities to report an abusive
relationship", said Debbie Douglas, Executive Director of the Ontario
Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants. "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," she added.
SOURCE YWCA Toronto
For further information:
Sarah Blackstock, YWCA Toronto - 416-892-6845
Avvy Go, Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic - 416-971-9676
Amy Casipullai, OCASI - Tel: 416.322.4950 x 239, Cell: 416.524.4950