July 9, 2006
Sham marriages victimize unwary Ottawa seems to be ready to crack down on those who marry to gain Canadian residency
By Mindelle Jacobs
Madhavi Raju is a patient woman. She'll have to be. It could take years to deport her deceptive, foreign-born estranged husband from Canada.
And perhaps the government will never boot Rajendra Kumar back to Fiji. But at least the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is probing the matter.
It gives Raju hope that Ottawa is serious about cracking down on marriage fraud – foreign spouses using Canadians, mainly women, solely to get permanent residency.
The 48-year-old Surrey woman has already won one victory. Earlier this year, a B.C. court ordered Kumar, who now lives in Edmonton, to pay Raju more than $21,000 in damages because he married her just to get into Canada.
She hasn't received a penny yet. Lawyers on both sides are still working out the nitty-gritty of payment.
But there is some good news. Media coverage of the case sparked the interest of government officials.
“We are investigating this case,” says CBSA spokesman Lisa White.
“Whenever we're aware of any potential misrepresentation or any infraction … under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, we will look into it and that's what we're doing in this case.”
Created in 2003, the CBSA's responsibilities include removing people who are deemed inadmissible to Canada.
The B.C. Supreme Court already concluded Kumar scammed Raju to get to Canada so it would seem reasonable that the CBSA will be able to compile enough evidence against him to have him deported.
“He ruined my life. Just because of him, I wasted seven years,” says Raju, who flew to Fiji to meet and marry Kumar in 1999.
She was 41 at the time and he was 29.
He finally arrived in Canada in December 2001 after obtaining his immigration visa, but ditched Raju after a couple of weeks.
“I find the defendant misrepresented his true feelings towards the plaintiff and his true motive for marrying her (in) order to induce her to marry him so he could emigrate to Canada,” ruled B.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Edwards.
“I have no hesitation in finding that from (Kumar's) perspective, the parties' marriage was one of convenience, not a love match,” he added.
Kumar was involved with another woman in Fiji before he married Raju and he resumed his affair with that woman after Raju returned to Canada, court heard.
He wrote his girlfriend love letters even after he moved to Canada and he petitioned for a divorce as soon as he could.
Raju says she won't grant him a divorce until he pays the $21,000 she was awarded.
“I had an opportunity to get married to some better men … to at least have a child,” she says. “But he spoiled everything.
“He cheated on me. He lied to me from the day he married (me).”
Her Vancouver lawyer, John McGreevy, says that since the court case, he's received calls from other people alleging marriage scams.
“It is just unbelievable how many people use a marriage as a vehicle to get into the country, just to leave the spouse soon after and move on,” he says.
There are no problems with the vast majority of sponsored spouses, says Citizenship and Immigration spokesman Randy Gurlock.
“Situations of marriage fraud, although they do occur, are the exception,” he says.
But critics contend the problem is much larger than it appears.
More than 10,000 people, including Raju, have signed a petition urging Ottawa to change the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
The Canadian Marriage Fraud Victim Society, which sponsored the petition, says couples should have to live together for three years before foreign spouses are granted permanent residency. (People can sign the petition online at www.fraudmarriage.com.)
“There are so many cases of marriage fraud,” says society spokesman Krishan Bector.
“These victims suffer. (Marriage) shouldn't be a matter of convenience.”