Activists hail proposed changes to spousal sponsorship rules


Women’s rights activists are hailing a commitment by Immigration Minister John McCallum to change spousal sponsorship rules they say unfairly penalize women and racial minorities.

The changes would end the two-year waiting period imposed on some spouses and grant permanent resident status to all spouses on arrival in Canada, an immigration department spokesman said.

The proposed amendments are part of a Liberal election campaign commitment and come on the heels of a new study that found women, racial minorities and those from Muslim-majority countries are disproportionally slapped with so-called “conditional permanent resident visas,” prompting concerns that they are forced to stay in abusive relationships to avoid losing their status.

The pending changes, to be announced in the coming months, are welcome news to University of Toronto social work professor Rupaleem Bhuyan, who co-authored the study, Spousal Sponsorship and Conditional Permanent Residence, a collaborative effort with community groups across Canada.

“The repeal of the conditional permanent residence is necessary. The language of the policy is racial- and gender-neutral on paper, but in reality, it exacerbates inequity. The conditions of sponsorship create conditions of abuse,” Bhuyan told the Star in an interview Tuesday

Based on government immigration data, researchers found that 28 per cent of 103,887 sponsored spouses were issued conditional permanent residence visas — 9,881 from within Canada and 19,054 from abroad — between October 2012 and December 2014.

Sixty-four per cent of the conditional visa holders were women, with those from the Middle East and South Asia twice as likely to be slapped with temporary status. Those from India, Morocco, Algeria, Cuba and Tunisia made up the top five countries with the highest number of conditional visas issued.

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