A Call For Action – New Immigration Sponsorship Conditions Would Jeopardize Women’s Safety

Anti Violence Advocates Address New Rules of Engagement for Immigrants

In a move that will hurt women in violent relationships, Canada’s federal government has quietly proposed new engagement rules for marriages involving Immigrants.  Under the proposal, a spouse or partner from abroad who has been in a relationship with the Canadian sponsor for two years or less would be granted only “conditional permanent residence” or risk having their permanent status revoked.   In turn, this could lead to their removal from Canada.

Please read Battered Women’s Support Services press release:
BWSS Press Release

Please read this Op-Ed from the Toronto Star:

Op-Ed Toronto Star

No One Is Illegal-Vancouver has written the following template letter:

Justine Ackman,

As an organization concerned with the safety and well being of immigrants,
particularly immigrant women, we are writing to request that the federal government’s recent proposal to introduce a conditional permanent residence period of two years or more for sponsored spouses and partners be stopped immediately.

According to a recent government release, “This proposed measure would
apply to spouses and partners who have been in a relationship with their sponsor for two years or less at the time of the sponsorship application.

The period of conditional status under consideration could be two years, or longer, from the time that the sponsored spouse or partner becomes a permanent resident in Canada.” Sponsored spouses or partners under conditional permanent residency, if found to no longer be in a bona fide
relationship, would have their permanent residency status revoked, leading to initiation of deportation.

In our opinion, this proposal creates an underclass of individuals who are dependent on their partners for permanent residency while at the same time gives disproportionate amounts of power to the sponsor to exploit that dependency. It leaves individuals, particularly women, at an increased risk of and abuse and punishes victims of domestic violence by forcing
them to remain in unsafe relationships for fear of deportation. The sponsored partner is left in a vulnerable position, as their status is
dependent on their relationship with their sponsor for a minimum of two years following the approval of their permanent residency application. By legislating “conditional residency”, this proposal only serves to further
regulate the lives of individuals with precarious status, thus undermining their rights to equality and safety.

In response to concerns regarding the wellbeing of spouses and partners in
abusive relationships, the government states: “a process for allowing bona fide spouses and partners in such situations to come forward without
facing enforcement action would be developed if a conditional permanent
residence period were introduced.” As an organization that understands the barriers that individuals face when fleeing abusive relationships, we know that women, and in particular recent immigrants, face multiple barriers
when fleeing their partners.

These barriers reduce access to government programs and services, and include factors such as partner monitoring,
language barriers, fear and intimidation, and lack of information. In addition, migrants often lack the crucial support of family members or close community members in accessing safe avenues for separation.

This proposal is part of a broader pattern of harming migrant women and trapping them into emotionally and physically violent situations, serving to increase unequal gendered power dynamics. This proposal follows an announcement made by Canadian Border Services Agency on February 11th
asserting a national policy ordering its officers to enter and wait outside anti-violence against women spaces to detain and deport women
survivors of violence.

Furthermore, this proposal is being billed as a measure to prevent “marriages of convenience”. This term and discourse in itself is
problematic as it applies almost explicitly only to marriages entered into by immigrants and intensifies anti-migrant suspicion and profiling.

In light of the above concerns, we demand that the proposed changes in the category of spousal sponsorships under the Immigration and Refugee
Protection act be immediately dismissed.

Name of your organization.