Immigration minister holds marriage fraud town hall
The Canadian Press
Date: Friday Oct. 15, 2010 6:49 AM ET
VANCOUVER—-Dozens of British Columbians joined federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney on Thursday for a town hall meeting on marriages of convenience.
The meeting was the second in a series of cross-country consultations that Kenney hopes will generate new ideas on how to combat marriage fraud.
He told those in attendance that Canada has a proud history of being open to newcomers.
However, Kenney said, with that heritage comes people looking to exploit their way to the Great White North.
“Often, the sponsoring Canadian spouse believes with all of their heart that they've entered into a bonafide, legitimate marriage and that the person that they are sponsoring will come to Canada as an immigrant to build a new family and life,” he said at the downtown Vancouver gathering.
“Tragically, too often, that person then arrives from overseas and turns out to have simply exploited the Canadian citizen to get to Canada in the first place.”
Kenney said he's heard hundreds of such cases since he became immigration minister two years ago and he's seen the emotional and financial turmoil they can cause.
Kara Dhaliwall, 22, told those in attendance Thursday that she married a man from India and then sponsored him.
But when Dhaliwall's husband set foot on Canadian soil, she said he never even bothered to see her.
“I think he should be deported because he never made contact,” she said.
Kenney said Canada's legal system makes it extremely difficult to remove a permanent resident, even if they've acted in bad faith.
He said in looking for solutions, the government is not ruling any options in or out.
He added a temporary residence period for newly sponsored spouses is a possibility the government is considering.
Kenney has also instructed the Canada Border Services Agency to prioritize cases of marriage fraud.
He urged those at the town hall meeting to come forward with any idea that might improve the current situation.
“The best disinfectant is sunshine,” he said, adding that the more people are aware of the problem the less likely they'll be victimized by it.
One woman told Kenney better communication is desperately needed. She said her complaints about her husband were bounced between Citizenship and Immigration and the border services agency.
Another woman said anyone who's suspected of marriage fraud should be forever banned from becoming a Canadian citizen.
A number of people made emotional appeals and simply asked Kenney to do whatever he can to prevent others from experiencing their pain.
“I'd like nothing more than kicking bad people out of this country that don't belong here and have broken our laws, but we have a very cumbersome legal procedure for removing people from Canada, including bad and fraudulent spouses,” he said.
Kenney said the real challenge is preventing those people from landing in Canada at all.
Another town hall meeting on marriage fraud is scheduled for Montreal later this month.
Citizenship and Immigration has also posted an online survey on marriage fraud on its website.