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Developing the guidelines
Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) undertook extensive consultations on the conditional permanent residence measure with:
- the public;
- the provincial and municipal levels of government, including the Ottawa Police Partner Assault Division;
- the stakeholders and non-government organizations with expertise in the area of abuse in immigrant communities; and
- the various federal departments, including the Department of Justice Canada.
During these consultations, concerns were raised about the vulnerability of spouses (and partners) in abusive relationships.
The Government of Canada is concerned about and sensitive to the issue of family violence. In consultation with these groups, CIC has developed a clear, straightforward process that allows newly sponsored spouses affected by the conditional permanent residence measure (on or after October 25, 2012), who are victims of abuse or neglect, to request an exception from this condition. They can come forward without having to worry that they might face enforcement action. Guidelines and training have also been developed to assist officers in processing requests for exceptions based on abuse or neglect and in handling sensitive information related to them.
These groups raised concerns that, even with guidelines and an exception in place, many stigmas remain that might serve as barriers for abused spouses—mostly made up of women and their accompanying children—to come forward and report abuse. This highlighted the need for this exception to conditional permanent residence to be clearly explained to potential immigrants overseas and in Canada. CIC is preparing documentation which will be translated into multiple languages and will be shared, on the Web, with the assistance of our partners, with immigrants abroad and in Canada—to inform them about this exception and make them aware that their permanent residence status will NOT be revoked. They should not feel pressured to stay in abusive relationships.
Exception for abuse or neglect
The conditional measure would cease to apply in instances where there is evidence of abuse or neglect by the sponsor, or of a failure to protect from abuse or neglect by a person related to the sponsor, whether that person is habitually residing in the household or not during the conditional period.
How to request an exception from the application of the condition
Sponsored persons who are subject to the condition may request an exception from the condition at any time during the two-year conditional period, or they may request an exception at the time of an investigation. They can do so by calling the CIC Call Centre at 1-888-242-2100.
Considerations for cases involving victims of abuse or neglect
Abuse may take many different forms: physical abuse, including assault and forcible confinement; sexual abuse, including sexual contact without consent; psychological abuse, including threats and intimidation; or financial abuse, including fraud and extortion. Neglect consists of the failure to provide the necessities of life, such as food, clothing, medical care or shelter and any other omission that result in a risk of serious harm.
There are many reasons why a victim may not report abuse to the authorities. This is particularly true for recent immigrants to Canada. A sponsored spouse might feel very alone in their newly adopted country and their abuser might have given them false information about their status in Canada. They might have trouble talking to people or be afraid for the safety of their children. They might face language barriers, religious or cultural constraints or concerns over maintaining their family honour. They might need to know more about their rights under Canadian law and that abuse is a crime.
CIC has worked closely with its partners to provide a definition of abuse or neglect that is as inclusive as possible. Officers are being provided with a wealth of information to assist them in processing requests received for such an exception.
Victim services, support and resources
CIC has prepared information and guidelines on the exception to the conditional permanent residence measure. It can be found at: OB-480 – archived
There is also a wealth of web-based information for victims of abuse or neglect available to victims, such as the following:
Victim services directory:
- English version: www.justice.gc.ca/eng/pi/pcvi-cpcv/vsd-rsv/index.html.
- French version: www.justice.gc.ca/fra/pi/cpcv-pcvi/rsv-vsd/index.html.
Search for local services organizations by entering a postal code in the “Search” box on the top right-hand side of the page.
The Department of Justice Canada produces a publication titled “Abuse is wrong in any language,” which provides information about abuse and resources to help victims of abuse. It has been published in multiple languages and is available on their website at www.justice.gc.ca/eng/pi/fv-vf/pub/abus/abus_lang/fe-fa/index.html.
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