Canada Stops Abusers from Applying for New Sponsorship Visas

An article South Asian Focus, November 29, 2011

Canada Stops Abusers from Applying for New Sponsorship Visas

Canada is making it harder for people convicted of crimes that result in bodily harm against members of their family or other particularly violent offences to sponsor any family class member to come to Canada, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney said last week.

“I was very concerned after a court decision in 2008 found a Canadian citizen, who was convicted in India of killing his sister-in-law after setting her on fire, could sponsor his new wife,” said Kenney. “The regulatory changes now in force aim to prevent a similar situation from happening again.”

The minister was alluding to a Federal Court decision (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration vs Brar, 2008 FC 1285), which highlighted a gap in the regulations. In this decision, a man convicted of killing his brother’s wife was allowed to sponsor his own wife because his sister-in-law did not meet the definition of relative or family member in the regulations.

This case also highlighted the fact that individuals who committed particularly violent offences against people other than specified members of their family were not barred from family class sponsorship.

The new rules, in effect, also target more comprehensively any form of domestic violence.

Previously, a sponsorship application would not have been approved if the sponsor had been convicted of a crime resulting in bodily harm only against a list of family members or relatives.

This list has now been expanded to ensure prospective sponsors convicted of such crimes against an expanded list of individuals – or particularly violent offences against any person – are generally not allowed to sponsor family to come to Canada for five years following the completion of their sentence.

The proposed regulatory changes were pre-published in the Canada Gazette April 2, 2011, followed by a 30-day public comment period.

The changes, which came into force Nov 18, are posted on Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s website.

“Family violence is not tolerated in Canada,” said Kenney. “Someone who commits a serious crime should not benefit from the privilege of sponsorship.”

Backgrounder

The Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, as previously worded, prevented a person from sponsoring a member of the Family Class where the sponsor had been convicted of an offence of a sexual nature against anyone or an offence that resulted in “bodily harm” against specific members of their family. The intent was to assist in the protection of sponsored individuals from family violence.

But the definition of ‘family members’ as understood in Canada excluded many relatives as understood in other parts of the world, including South Asia. The rules as they stood also did not bar individuals who committed particularly violent offences against any individual from family class sponsorship.

The regulatory changes now in force fix these lacunae.

Specificially, the bar on sponsorship for violent crime means a potential sponsor convicted for committing or attempting to commit a violent offence punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of at least 10 years against anyone is now barred from sponsoring a member of the family class to come to Canada.

This regulatory change is similar to the current prohibition for convictions of a sexual nature.

The sponsorship bar for family violence provides that anyone convicted of an offence causing bodily harm against a list of relatives is barred from sponsorship.

The previous list of relationships included:

- the spouse, partner, dependent child, or dependent child of a dependent child of the sponsor or the sponsor’s partner; and

- the brother/sister, parent/grandparent, aunt/uncle or cousin of the sponsor or the sponsor’s partner.

With the regulatory changes now in force, the following relationships are examples of those now included in the expanded list: 

- the sponsor’s ex-spouse or ex-partner and their children;

- the ex-spouse of the sponsor’s current spouse or partner and their children;

- the partner or ex-partner of the sponsor’s brother/sister, parent/grandparent, aunt/uncle, or cousin;

- the spouse or ex-spouse of the partner’s brother/sister, parent/grandparent, aunt/uncle, or cousin;

- a foster child under the current or former care and control of the sponsor or their current or ex-spouse or partner; and

- the sponsor’s current or ex-boyfriend/girlfriend, whether or not they live together, or a family member of that person.

Given the importance of protecting sponsored people from family violence, the addition of these other relationships aims to ensure there are no future cases of family violence convictions where the sponsorship bar cannot be imposed.

The sponsorship bar remains in effect until an individual convicted in Canada is either pardoned or acquitted on appeal, or where five years have elapsed since the completion of an imposed sentence.

For convictions outside Canada, the sponsorship bar is in effect until an individual is acquitted on appeal, or where five years have elapsed since the completion of an imposed sentence and the sponsor has demonstrated that they are rehabilitated. The regulatory changes do not alter the duration of the bar.