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Considerations for New Canadians


Every year, thousands of people migrate to Canada from various countries. As new Canadians, there are many reasons why they would be vulnerable to sexual abuse and assault. 

This vulnerability could be a result of many things including the following:

  • not knowing about Canadian laws and women's rights;
  • not speaking English or French well;
  • being isolated from others;
  • fear of bringing shame to your family;
  • fear of losing your children;
  • fear of losing your immigration status;
  • not knowing about social service agencies that can help you.

Many of the young men and women who move have worked for years in substandard conditions while they gained experience and waited for the opportunity to move to Canada. They may feel an incredible amount of pressure to be successful in immigrating to Canada in order to support their family back home. Many have dual goals of both financially supporting their families back home and eventually sponsoring members of their family to move to Canada. 

Further, given that many immigrants have experienced living in poor conditions prior to coming to Canada, many are under the false belief that they just have to "put up with it" until they reach the two years and are eligible for permanent residence. 


Many immigrant women are sponsored by a spouse or partner for permanent resident status. Therefore, it is natural to wonder whether she will be forced to leave Canada if she is not a Canadian citizen. 

Permanent Resident Status

In most cases, a woman with a permanent resident status cannot lose that status or be forced to leave Canada only because she leaves an abusive relationship. This is true even if her abusive partner sponsored her application for permanent residence. But immigration authorities may investigate if a sponsor tells them that:

  • the relationship was not genuine, or
  • the sponsored woman left out required information or included information that was not true in her application to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC).

This could lead to the loss of her permanent resident status. A woman who is concerned about this possibility should get legal advice. 

Conditional Permanent Resident Status 

In some cases, a woman's permanent resident status will be "conditional" for the first two years. A sponsored woman will get conditional status if: 

  • she and her sponsor do not have a child in common, or 
  • the marriage or the relationship - whether conjugal partner or common-law partner - has existed for two years or less. 

A woman with conditional permanent resident status is expected to live with her sponsor for two years from the date she receives that status. 

Click here to read more about different statuses and the law for it.


What kind of abuse or neglect will a woman need to show?

Abuse can be physical, sexual, psychological, or financial. Below are some examples of types of abuse:

Physical abuse includes:

  • hitting, punching, slapping, choking, burning, pushing or shoving in a way that could cause injury;
  • confining a woman or refusing to allow her contact with friends and family;
  • forcing a woman to take drugs or alcohol or do illegal things.

Sexual abuse includes:

  • forcing, coercing, threatening or manipulating a woman to take part in unwanted sexual activity;
  • using physical force, weapons, or objects in sexual acts without a woman's consent;
  • involving other people in sexual activity without a woman's consent;
  • involving or suggesting the involvement in sexual activity of a child or of someone who is unable to give valid consent for a reason such as illness, the influence of alcohol or drugs, or intimidation or pressure.

Psychological abuse includes:

  • a pattern of controlling behaviour, such as insulting, bullying, humiliating, threatening, name-calling, yelling, blaming, shaming, ridiculing, disrespecting, or criticizing her;
  • controlling what a woman can do or not do;
  • threatening to commit suicide;
  • threatening to cause death or injury;
  • threatening to hurt or remove a woman's child(ren);
  • using personal beliefs such as the abuser's interpretation of religious or cultural beliefs to manipulate, dominate, or control a woman.

Financial abuse includes: (aimed at keeping a woman dependent on her sponsor)

  • stealing a woman's money;
  • controlling finances or refusing to share money;
  • preventing a woman from working or going to school;
  • causing a woman to lose her job, for instance by making her miss work.

Click here to read more.


Sources: 

1. Community Legal Education Ontario 

Women, Family Violence and Immigration 

2. Sexual Assault.ca

Immigrant Caregiver Sexual Assault in Canada

3. Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs 

Creative Ways to Work with Undocumented Immigrant Survivors of Sexual Assault