On November 5, 2014, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris
Alexander announced that the Government of Canada had tabled its
proposed Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices
Act (the "Proposed Act"). The Proposed Act is
intended to amend the current Immigration and Refugee
Protection Act ("IRPA"), the Civil Marriage
Act and the Criminal Code for the purpose of
preventing barbaric cultural practices from taking place in
According to the Government of Canada, the Proposed Act will
provide more protection and support for vulnerable immigrants,
primarily women and girls, including:
Creating a new inadmissibility under IRPA that would render
permanent residents and temporary residents inadmissible if they
practice polygamy in Canada;
Strengthening Canadian marriage laws by amending the Civil
Marriage Act to codify the existing legal requirements, at the
national level, for "free and enlightened consent" and
establishing a new national minimum age for marriage of sixteen
Helping to protect potential victims of early or forced
marriages by creating a new specific court-ordered peace bond to be
used where there are grounds to fear that a person would commit a
forced or early marriage offence, including the mandatory
surrendering of a passport to prevent a child from being taken out
of the country to facilitate a forced marriage;
Criminalizing certain conduct related to early and forced
marriage ceremonies in the Criminal Code, including the
act of removing a child from Canada for the purpose of such
Limiting the defence of provocation so that it would not apply
in alleged "honour" killings and many spousal homicides;
Including consequential amendments to the Prisons and
Reformatories Act and the Youth Criminal Justice Act
to include the above court-ordered peace bond.
In terms of the immigration-related amendments, the Proposed Act
will attempt to address the issue of polygamy through the creation
of a new polygamy-specific ground of inadmissibility. Under this
new ground, foreign nationals (both temporary residents and
permanent residents) who practice polygamy in Canada could be found
inadmissible on that basis alone, without the need for a criminal
conviction. If such a foreign national is found to be inadmissible
under this ground, they could then be subject to removal from
While current IRPA provisions require foreign nationals wishing
to become permanent residents to have only one spouse, once in
Canada, it is difficult to find these individuals inadmissible. A
criminal conviction or finding of misrepresentation is required
before a person practicing polygamy in Canada can be found
Once the Proposed Act is implemented, a polygamist permanent
resident or foreign national who is or will be physically present
in Canada with even one of their polygamous spouses will be deemed
to be practicing polygamy in Canada. The permanent resident or
foreign national could be found inadmissible on that basis
alone, without requiring evidence that the person
misrepresented their situation or has a criminal conviction.
As mentioned above, the new ground of inadmissibility would
apply to the temporary stream, to the permanent immigration stream,
and to existing Canadian permanent residents:
While in the permanent stream, permanent residents will be
required to stop practicing polygamy and will only be permitted to
immigrate with one monogamous spouse.
In the temporary stream, visitors, students and workers who
practice polygamy abroad and come to Canada with even one of their
spouses, or who join one of their spouses in Canada, would be
deemed to be practicing polygamy on Canadian soil and would be
inadmissible under IRPA.
Existing permanent residents who practice polygamy in Canada
would also be inadmissible under IRPA. This should apply even where
one of the polygamous spouses is residing outside
Although the stated objectives of the Proposed Act are
admirable, some critics have alleged that the immigration-related
amendments will instead ensure that vulnerable women and girls
never have the opportunity to come to Canada, where they might
otherwise benefit from the protection of Canadian laws. In other
words, it will not necessarily eliminate barbaric cultural
practices; it will only ensure that they do not take place on
It remains to be seen what effect the proposed ground of
inadmissibility will have on vulnerable women and girls who reside
abroad. However, it should at least discourage Canadian permanent
residents from continuing the practice of polygamy after their
arrival in Canada.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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September 21st, 2016 - Immigration authorities conducted the 20th round of invitations under Express Entry in 2016 and 43rd overall, inviting 1288 applicants for permanent residence with a lowest CRS score of 483.
Canada received more than 320,000 immigrants in the last 12 months, approaching levels not seen since the early 20th century. The per capital immigration rate at .88%, is consistent with previous Liberal government policies.
October 12th, 2016 - Immigration authorities conducted the 21st round of invitations under Express Entry in 2016 and 44th overall, inviting 1518 applicants for permanent residence with a lowest CRS score of 484.
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