08 November 2010

CBC Reports Continuing Government Concern with Fraudulent Marriages: Sham, wow.

CBC has published a story on the federal government's recent interest in "cracking down" on marriages of convenience, marriages entered into for immigration purposes rather than conjugal. Although Citizenship and Immigration Canada has been aware of the issue for quite some time, the ministry has recently launched an online survey on the subject and the minister, Jason Kenney, has held public meetings in Montreal and Vancouver to collect opinions.

It's difficult to pick out exactly what the government's concerns are, although the CBC's summary of a 2007 CIC report uncovered by intrepid journalist David McKie says that:
"The investigation produced shocking revelations about the number and nature of the marriages, including ties to the sex trade, narcotics trafficking, embezzlement and human smuggling."
The more pressing problem, I think, is the emotional toll taken when the immigrating spouse finally arrives in Canada, after years of arguing with the CIC to obtain permanent resident status, only for the sponsoring spouse to discover that their marriage is a sham. As an earlier CBC story put it:
"The most common type of fraud occurs after Canadians sponsor foreign spouses to live with them. After being granted permanent residence, the new arrival lands in Canada and abandons the sponsor."
Assuming that the government's concern is to prevent this sort of mischief, the next question to address must involve the means available to government to combat marriage fraud while respecting the traditions of arranged marriage common to many cultures. How do you winnow out arranged marriages entered into in good faith from those entered into for immigration purposes alone?

Apart from (1) delaying citizenship status by two or three years from the date of immigration or the commencement of the spouses' cohabitation and (2) more strictly evaluating the formal validity of marriages, I really don't know what can be done about this difficult problem from a regulatory standpoint. (Aggrieved spouses can seek some relief through the courts, with occasional success as demonstrated by the 2006 case Raju v. Kumar, but this is a time-consuming and costly process with no guarantee of success.) I would be hesitant to resolve the problem by entirely shifting the burden to the sponsoring spouse on a sort of caveat emptor basis, but with the attention this problem has begun to receive I trust that potential sponsors will be more skeptical of the marriage proposals they receive.