By Graham Lane
Published by the Winnipeg Sun on July 13, 2017
Justin Trudeau claims his government has the best interests of women as a central pillar of their reign. Yet, sadly, a recent federal policy change on spousal immigration calls into question the validity of Trudeau’s claim. The new policy suggests he is more interested in getting votes through identity politics than protecting women.
Overseas marriages — requiring one of the couple needing a visa to stay in Canada with their spouse — provide difficult situations for western democracies. With arranged marriages the norm in India, a Canadian marrying an East Indian can raise questions as to the validity of the marriage bond. In many cases the couple has spent little, if any, time together before marrying.
In the U.S., the U.K., Australia and New Zealand, immigrant spouses are granted conditional visas, becoming unconditional only after two years. Why? The time requirement better ensures marriages are legitimate. Even more importantly, it protects women who find themselves in abusive marriages. If a woman suffers abuse within the two-year period, her husband has his visa revoked and sent back to India. While the two-year test rule deals with out-right marriage fraud, more frequently it is used to protect women who sponsored their husband only to be abused.
In 2011, the Canadian government finally adopted two-year conditional visas for immigrant spouses, the international standard. While Canada’s adoption of the two-year test only brought us into line with other developed countries seeking to protect women, the change was met with outrage, largely by older men of East Indian backgrounds.
Canada’s revised rules also provided wives from overseas relief from being abused by Canadian husbands. Separated foreign wives leaving arranged marriages escaped abuse and allowed to remain in Canada. But, after the two-year test was introduced (to protect women), dozens of articles appeared in the Indo-Canadian press claiming the government’s new rules were not needed and ‘hurt’ women. The opposite was true, the new rule protected women.
After this positive change was enacted in 2011, hundreds of false and or abusive foreign male spouses had their visas to stay in Canada revoked, returning them to their home country while leaving their wives here and safe. Before the new rules came into force, there were countless stories of cases of marriages where male immigrant spouses walked away from their new Canadian wives after arriving (to stay) in Canada. Either abused or a victim of fraud, distraught new wives often didn’t know their husband before marrying them.
The Trudeau government then responded to fiery male-orientated opposition by repealing the new two-year test, removing conditions to spousal visas. Once again, women were the losers. The cause of their loss: an outcry by males from segments of the Indo-Canadian community.
Trudeau’s government, pandering for votes at the cost of no longer protecting women, should be ashamed. Sadly, doing what is right — the protection now revoked — takes a back seat to playing identity politics for hoped-for Liberal votes.
Immigration officers and consultants express deep disappointment of Trudeau’s reversal. Most work hard to protect women from abusive and fraudulent marriages. An important tool, the two-year test, was taken away, once again it is much harder to protect the vulnerable.
So much for our self-described feminist Prime Minister.
— Graham Lane leads Manitoba Forward (manitobaforward.ca).
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