Muslim child brides on rise
By TOM GODFREY
Last Updated: March 11, 2010 10:46pm
Federal immigration officials say theres little they can do to stop child brides from being sponsored into Canada by much older husbands who wed them in arranged marriages abroad.
Top immigration officials in Canada and Pakistan say all they can do is reject the sponsorships of husbands trying to bring their child-brides to Canada. The men have to reapply when the bride turns 16. The marriages are permitted under Sharia Law.
Muslim men, who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents return to their homeland to wed a child bride in an arranged marriage in which a dowry is given to the girls parents. Officials said some of the brides can be 14 years old or younger and are forced to marry. The practice occurs in a host of countries including: Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Lebanon.
Not valid in Canada
Canadian visa officer Steve Bulmer said in classified documents he refused to allow one Pakistani man to sponsor his 15-year-old bride in August 2009.
I can find no section (of law) that states the marriage is invalid or void, Bulmer wrote in e-mails obtained by lawyer Richard Kurland under Access of Information. I am afraid the age does not invalidate the marriage even if it is illegal to marry.
Abdul Hameed, of the Canadian embassy in Islamabad, said child marriages are not valid in Canada.
A child marriage is punishable but it does not render the marriage invalid, Hameed said. We are refusing such application on grounds the marriage will not be valid as per Canadian laws.
William Hawke, of immigrations Permanent Resident Unit, said the young brides wont be allowed in Canada.
Sponsorship applications submitted for a spouse under 16 will be refused, he said.