Foreign spouses face tighter rules in Canada

The federal government plans to put a two-year probationary period on all foreign spouses to ensure they are not trying to enter Canada fraudulently.

Rules applauded by Canadian arm of mail-order bride company, critics see danger for women

Tougher rules for mail-order brides

10 years ago
Duration 4:16
Government proposes changes to immigration rules that will change status of women who marry and then divorce upon arriving in Canada. 4:16

If a foreign spouse's marriage in Canada does not last two years, he or she could be deported, according to a proposed new federal rule.

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The CBC's Simon Gardner reports on reaction to changes to federal regulations

The Conservatives believe a two-year probationary period for foreign spouses would prevent men and women from getting away with immigration fraud by marrying Canadians just to get into the country.

A Canadian spokesman for Volga Girl, a North American mail-order bride company, cheered the new regulations, saying he knows some people have used the system to side-step the Canadian immigration process.

Tatiana Townsend married an Ottawa man 10 years ago and moved to Canada from Moldova after meeting him online. (CBC)

Volga Girl, which promotes web-based international marriages, hopes the new rules will "legitimize" the industry.

"Let the visa go ahead to come to Canada and then, yeah, a two-year probationary period is fine," said Mark Scrivener, whose company describes itself as the "most reliable and effective way to find your Russian wife."

"That would be very workable for me."

Regulations could prolong abusive marriage

The Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration enforced one new regulation March 2 that says a foreign spouse who ditches her new husband must wait five years after entering Canada before sponsoring a new partner.

The two-year probation is not yet in effect. It is open to public input until the beginning of April, and the ministry said it expects to have the regulation in place at the end of the summer.

One advocacy group in Ottawa said the new rules could put women in danger, especially if their Canadian husbands abuse them.

Stephanie Lomatski says stricter rules for foreign brides could lead to more violence against women. (CBC)

"There is a power imbalance inherent in this policy in regards to women, and if women are in abusive relationships we know that abuse is already silenced within our society," said Stephanie Lomatski, executive director of the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women.

Lomatski said she believes women could become trapped in abusive marriages because they would fear deportation.

"This could be an additional barrier to women coming forward if she does come into this country and is in an abusive relationship," she added.

With files from the CBC's Simon Gardner