The Migrant Mothers Project (MMP) welcomes the announcement that the Canadian government has repealed Conditional Permanent Residence (CPR) for sponsored spouses and partners in its entirety. Since 2013, MMP and our community partners have worked to document the impact that conditional settlement policies have on the safety of migrant women. We have brought our research findings to the attention to the House Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration; Status of Women Canada; Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada; as well as in the media. We also supported community-based organizations that mobilized for an end to Conditional Permanent Residence. This policy reversal is the result of this successful mobilization across Canada.
As a research and community engagement project, the Migrant Mothers Project has documented how Conditional Permanent Residence and related policies exacerbate the vulnerability of migrant women to various forms of abuse. Conditional Permanent Residence, which required some sponsored spouses to co-habitate in a conjugal relationship with their sponsor for a period of two years, created a clear policy mechanism for sponsors to exert power and control over their spouses/partners. The option for sponsored spouses/partners to apply for an “Exception for Abuse and Neglect” created a meaningful path for victims of abuse to seek removal of the condition on their permanent residence. The implementation of this form of relief, however, was problematic. It required significant resources from community-based organizations to support victims to gather the necessary documentation, while many feared stigma, backlash, and uncertainty about their immigration status in seeking help. As a result of numerous barriers for immigrant victims of domestic violence, a relatively small number of people came forward to apply for the “Exception.”
Repealing Conditional Permanent Residence is an important step towards acknowledging the power imbalances that create vulnerability, especially for immigrant women, through Canada’s immigration policies. Over the next few months, it will be imperative for immigration officers to fully inform immigrant communities of this policy change. While the repeal of Conditional Permanent Residence has been a primary advocacy goal for the past few years, the threat of being abused by a sponsoring relative continues to impact vulnerable immigrants. Such power imbalances exist across a range of situations in the family sponsorship process, including: in-land sponsored spouses/partners who are waiting for their applications to be processed; the threat of being investigated for “misrepresentation”; and sponsorship agreements for sponsored spouses, children, parents, and grandparents that may tie victims of abuse to their abuser.
Going forward, we will continue to work with our community partners to highlight the need for cross-sector collaboration in advancing policies that justly promote and protect the rights and full inclusion of immigrants in Canada.
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