Immigration Corner | I fled abuse in Canada
Dear Miss Powell,
I got married to a Canadian citizen and he filed for me. I got through and went to Canada. I was excited about my new life. However, from the day I landed in Canada I started getting all kinds of abuse. I decided to stick it out as I really love my husband. I found out that I was pregnant and I wasn't sure how he would take the news, so I asked a minister to talk to him about the way he is treating me. The minister called and talked to him and he got mad at me, saying I had no right to bring his business to the public. He hit me on my face and flung me across the room. I was so scared, I called my family in Jamaica and they said that I should leave him and come back to Jamaica before he kills me and the baby. I packed a bag when he went to work and returned to Jamaica to my parents.
I've been in Jamaica about three weeks and my husband has called and threatened me almost every day. He said he is going to tell Immigration that I left him so that I cannot go back to Canada. I don't know what to do as I'm pregnant and I'm scared that if I go back he will cause me to lose my baby. I am also worried that if I stay in Jamaica, he could jeopardise my right to live in Canada. What can I do? Help me and my baby, please.
I am sorry to hear about your situation. Abuse is a serious offence. It is not tolerated in Canada and should be reported, especially since you have a genuine fear for your safety and the safety of your child.
Your immigration status in Canada depends on the terms under which you were granted permanent residence. If at the time when you were sponsored, you were in a relationship for less than two years and you did not have a child together, you may have received 'conditional' permanent residence.
This policy was introduced by Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC, formally known as CIC) which came into effect in 2012. This policy was implemented in an effort to cut down on fraudulent marriages or marriages of convenience by individuals who were seeking Canadian permanent residence.
Based on the brief information provided, your situation is different. You did not state the length of time that you were in a relationship or if you had a child with your husband at the time of the application. Your rights as a conditional permanent resident are the same as those of a permanent citizen. This includes being permitted to leave Canada and to return to Canada, and you do not need the permission of your husband to do so.
In any event, your conditional status in Canada would have ended once the two-year period expired. If you received conditional permanent residence less than two years ago, you are not forced to stay in the relationship just to maintain your permanent residence in Canada.
If you are being abused by your husband, who is your sponsor, then you have a responsibility to yourself and your unborn child to protect yourself and to report it the authorities. The police in Canada can be very helpful plus there are a number of support groups that you may contact.
Abuse can take many forms, including physical, sexual, psychological and failing to provide the necessities for life.
You can request an exception to your conditional permanent residence limitations, which can be done anytime during the two- year period. You can do this by calling the Canadian government immigration call centre at 1-888-242-2100.
When you are reporting the abuse to IRCC, you must show evidence that the abuse was the reason for the breakdown of the marriage. A written statement from your minister and medical reports would be helpful.
IRCC may contact you within five days for a phone interview. You will be required to submit statements and evidence later. This evidence will be used to make a decision on whether to grant the exception. This will be based on whether the IRCC officer believes there is sufficient evidence of the abuse and does not depend on the severity of the abuse. It is best to provide the officer with as much details and evidence as you can.
You did not state whether you were working at the time or if you had other friends or family members in Canada who provided support to you. However, this is a serious issue and you do not need to suffer alone or stay in Jamaica if you do not want to. Remember, remaining outside of Canada for an excessive amount of time could jeopardise the renewal of your permanent residence card when it expires.
There are many options available to you. Some are: contact an immigration lawyer directly; call the Canadian police, department of justice or health services. You can also go directly to the hospital, medical clinic or your family doctor. There are many legal aid clinics, crisis hotlines, victim support organisations and immigrant serving agencies all over Canada. Please get the personal help you need.
- Deidre S. Powell is a lawyer, mediator and notary public. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject line: Immigration or Tel: 613.695.8777 or contact her on Facebook: Jamaicanlawyer.