Controversial restrictions imposed by the conservatives are under attack. The rules prevent a spouse or partner from abroad who has been in a relationship with a Canadian sponsor for two years or less from becoming a permanent resident, immediately following their arrival to Canada. The policies require the newcomer to remain in a relationship with their sponsor for two more years following arrival or risk facing deportation.
The Canadian Council for Refugees says a consultation with dozens of immigration organizations confirms the rules has increased the vulnerability of many newcomers, most of them women. The refugee advocacy group is urging the federal Liberals to repeal this provision that in effect, forces women to remain in abusive relationships as a condition to become a Canadian permanent resident.
Yet there is an exception specifically for victims of abuse. The refugee council says that government bureaucracy, language barriers and the burden of proving mistreatment is preventing the exemption consideration from working.
The council contacted over 140 settlement organizations, legal clinics and women’s shelters and found that a lack of information about the conditional residence provision was a significant challenge, especially in areas outside major urban centres.
The Liberals have committed to repealing conditional permanent residence. Citizenship and Immigration spokeswoman Nancy Caron said the government is sensitive to the issue of family violence and will study the issues raised by the council.
According to the council, organizations that tried to make use of the exception provision for victims have experienced several issues. These include:
- Not all Citizenship and Immigration Canada representatives understand the rules of the conditional sponsorship rules and often provide misleading information;
- There is an apparent lack of training on spousal violence on the part of immigration officers conducting interviews who decide whether an exception should be granted;
- Compiling evidence was difficult to obtain as was proving emotional or psychological abuse;
- Officials did not always respond promptly to requests for an exception