OCASI – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants is deeply disturbed by the implementation today, of ‘conditional permanent residence' for some sponsored spouses and partners. The Council is concerned that this measure will increase inequalities in relationships between spouses, and would put women in particular at heightened risk of violence.
According to the new regulations, 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 and have no children in common at the time of their sponsorship application.
OCASI and many other community and women's organizations in Ontario as well as across Canada have spoken out against the introduction of this measure from the time it was first proposed by government in March 2011. We expressed our grave concern that the measure will make women more vulnerable to the risk of abuse, and could force many to remain in an abusive relationship for fear of loss of resident status and deportation. The risk would be greater for women who face barriers to communication and limited access to information or to community services.
The government had said that the new measure was necessary to prevent the use of spousal sponsorship as an avenue for immigration where no relationship exists. The Department of Citizenship and Immigration has commented in the Gazette Notice publishing the regulation change that “Firm figures on the extent of relationships of convenience are not available”. The notice estimates the cost of implementing the measure to be $11 million for a ten-year period, and also notes that there may be increased cost to the affected sponsored spouses or partners to prove abuse or neglect. Without clear evidence of widespread fraud and clear evidence of whether the conditional residence status is an effective deterrent, it is uncertain whether this measure would achieve its goal. However it is clear that a significant number of women would be rendered more vulnerable and put at risk.
OCASI shared concerns about the regulation change most recently in our response to the government Gazette Notice of March 10, 2012 and has raised it with decision makers at other opportunities throughout the year. We will continue public education and advocacy efforts to raise awareness about the negative impacts of this measure and urge its withdrawal.
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