You have been newly married?
You were sponsored as a spouse?
You have just arrived in Canada?
You need to be aware that there are legal consequences that you should consider if you were to separate from your sponsor.
If you received your permanent residency; however, if you applied for it after October 5th, 2012 you need to know that your permanent resident status is conditional. If you are subject to abuse in your relationship, the bar does not necessarily apply but let’s be honest how many new immigrants that are arriving in Canada know or understand the fine print in section 72.2 of Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations. It is a presumed reality that most people that immigrate to Canada via spousal sponsorship place their 100% trust in their loved ones to start a life in a foreign country. The newly arrived spouse is reliant completely on the Sponsor.
The Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations require the sponsored spouse (that is you) to cohabit in a conjugal relationship with the sponsor for a period of two years after the day on which you became a permanent resident of Canada.
There are exceptions to this condition. For example, if you have children together, this provision is not applicable to you.
There is also an exception to the two-year conditional permanent residency if you are suffering from abuse or neglect in your conjugal relationship. Abuse and neglect is defined in section 72.1(7) of Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations as follows:
Abuse consists of any of the following:
- Physical abuse, including assault and forcible enforcement,
- Sexual abuse, including sexual contact without consent,
- Psychological abuse, including threats and intimidation, and
- Financial abuse, including fraud and extortion.
Neglect consists of the failure to provide the necessaries of life, such as food, clothing, medical are or shelter, and any other omission that results in a risk of serious harm.
The IRPA regulations are silent on what kind of evidence of abuse or neglect is required to fall under this exception. No guidance is provided on what type of evidence of abuse or neglect is required. Is evidence in a form of police report sufficient? We simply don’t know!
This bar has a disproportionate impact on women in abusive relationships. It is needless to say that women are often victimized at a higher rate than men in domestic relationships. This provision in particular heightens the women’s vulnerability to domestic violence because of the actual or perceived understanding of the immigration law in their new country. The newly arrived spouses are financially and emotionally dependent on the sponsor and this condition only hinders and limits their ability to seek help when warranted. This requirement may serve as another sword held by the sponsor to subjugate and perpetuate the abuse towards their spouses.
The Liberal Government have a new plan for Canadian immigration and Economic Opportunity which includes granting immediate permanent residency to new spouses entering Canada, rather than imposing a two-year conditional status that puts spouses—often women—in a position of extreme vulnerability.
The Immigration Minister John MaCllum did state last year that the Federal government would consider scraping the two-year requirement. However, nothing concrete have come out of these announcements.
Date of Article: March 28, 2017
Prepared By: Sadaf Raja, Barrister & Solicitor