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Same-sex marriages in Canada

Published:Tuesday | April 3, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Deidre S. Powell

Dear Miss Powell,

I have been dating my same-sex partner for the past five years and we would like to visit Canada and get married, since we can't do so in Jamaica. How should we go about doing this?

- B.J.

Dear B.J.,

You will first need to apply for a temporary resident/visitor's visa from the Citizenship and Immigration Canada local office in Kingston. Last week, I wrote about the documents and forms that you will need to submit to obtain a temporary resident visa. Follow the same procedure to make the application for the visa. You should pay specific attention to submitting documents and information that you do not intend to remain in Canada after your marriage.

Your next step is to get a marriage licence in Canada by completing the required forms, paying the fee and then submitting it to a registry office in the town/city where you wish to get married. The application may be completed online, printed and signed by both parties. Submit the form with your passports and birth certificates. You may receive the licence on the same day, provided that you were not previously married.

If you were previously married and received a divorce outside of Canada, the process could take up to three weeks and requires additional documents. You will need to submit, with your application, an original sealed divorce certificate, along with a completed 'Statement of Sole Responsibility' form. You will also need a legal opinion on the validity of your foreign divorce. Speak with a lawyer in Canada to prepare this on your behalf. These documents must be submitted with your application in order to receive the marriage licence.

Secure marriage officer

Once the licence is issued, it is valid for three months. You will need to arrange your ceremony with a marriage officer. There are several marriage officers who advertise their services online and you may want to book them prior to visiting Canada. You also have the option of getting married at the civil registry or city hall. There are facilities and officers that you can book at the same time that you are applying for your licence.

It is the responsibility of the marriage officer to file the signed documents with the province on your behalf. You will receive a 'Record of Solemnization of Marriage' for your files. This is not the marriage licence. You will need to complete a 'Request for Marriage Certificate' form and submit it with the applicable fees to the province. It takes an average of two weeks for your marriage certificate to be processed and then mailed to you. You may also make an application for expedited service if you would like to receive it before you return to Jamaica.

Not recognised in Ja

You should be reminded that same-sex marriages are not recognised in Jamaica. The problem that you could face is that you will not be considered legally married and the validity of your marriage could be challenged in Jamaica. It is, therefore, important to assess your goals prior to getting married, to ensure that a marriage certificate from Canada can satisfy those goals.

You should also note that, should you require a divorce in the future, you will need to submit an application for divorce in a jurisdiction that recognises your marriage. Currently in Canada, there is a residency restriction on who can access the courts to seek a divorce. However, the government recently issued a statement that they are exploring ways to dissolve marriages for same-sex couples who were married in Canada and do not live in Canada.

If you have additional concerns, consult with an immigration lawyer to guide you with the process.

Deidre S. Powell is a lawyer, mediator and notary public who is a member of the Jamaican and Ontario, Canada bars, with main office located in Ottawa, Ontario. Her areas of practice are in immigration, personal injury, family and administration of estates. She is on the roster of mediators for Ottawa, Toronto and the Dispute Resolution Foundation of Jamaica. Email: Subject line: Immigration.