Sometimes people who live in lands of milk and honey meet and fall in love with people from lands of dirty water and sorghum. They get married and then the milk and honey spouse sponsors the water and sorghum spouse to immigrate to Canada so they can live happily ever after.
Sometimes they do.
Sometimes they don’t.
Sometimes the sponsored spouse just takes off as soon as he or she sets foot in this country. In Canada, the immigrating spouse is granted permanent resident status as soon as they enter the country.
Unfortunately, when you sponsor a spouse for immigration you also make yourself financially responsible for them for the next three years. If your spouse takes off and applies for welfare, Social Assistance recovers the money from you. If your spouse incurs debts; you have to pay them.
This seems to happen quite a lot though we rarely hear anything about it – until Ottawa artist, Lainie Towell.
Lainie went on an educational trip to Guinea in 2004 and met a guy named Soumah. They got married in 2006 in a traditional wedding ceremony. All Lainie’s friends and family went to Guinea to attend.
In December of 2007, the couple officially moved to Canada. Four weeks later, as soon as the husband got his official residency documents, he took off.
Unlike many other victims of this kind of marriage fraud, Lainie went public. She contacted her Member of Parliament, Canadian Immigration, the Canadian Border Services Agency and every newspaper, magazine, television and radio station she could get hold of.
Last Thursday she put on her wedding gown, strapped a door to her back and protested in front of the Parliament Buildings. (As in “her marriage was just a door for this guy through which to enter the country and now she is burdened with his debts” – very symbolic).
Of course government doesn’t want people marrying Canadians just so they can become citizens, but the system doesn’t allow for any quick resolutions. Even divorcing Soumah doesn’t absolve Lainie from financial responsibility and it could take years before any of this is resolved.
You can’t help but feel sorry for Lainie. However:
- If the government lets Lainie off the hook, is it right that the taxpayer, via social assistance should have to support this Soumah guy, until the government manages to get him deported – if ever. And not just him, but every man and woman who marries a Canadian citizen to get into the country and then abandons them.
- What will any official resolution of this situation mean to immigrants who marry Canadians in good faith, but who are then abandoned by the Canadian for whatever reason?
- Or immigrants who marry Canadians and are abused by them and escape and then will have no source of support?
- Some people say getting duped by someone who they thought loved them happens to almost everyone at some point. We all have had to live with the consequences – sometimes they’re small and cost us only a few weeks of recrimination. Sometimes they’re big and cost us a great deal. What makes Lainie so special?