NDP MLAs working with the community to find solutions to marriage fraud problems
BURNABY — Raj Chouhan, NDP MLA for Burnaby Edmonds and Diane Thorne, NDP MLA for Coquitlam-Maillardville, held a town hall meeting on Wednesday, June 7th that gave victims of marriage fraud a chance to connect with social service agencies, support networks and concerned community members and relate their experiences.
"There are an overwhelming number of people that have come forward who were victimized by their sponsored spouses, and later re-victimized by government authorities that penalized them for the actions of their estranged spouse. Instead of helping them, the government set up roadblocks against these victims," said Chouhan, Opposition critic for Human Rights, Multiculturalism and Immigration.
"After hearing these stories, I concluded that the first step to help them is to increase awareness about this issue so they do not continue to suffer all alone and in anonymity. That is how the idea of this meeting came to be."
Immigration sponsorship agreements make sponsors responsible for the actions of those sponsored. Agreements cannot be broken, even if the sponsored person abuses or abandons the sponsor. B.C. government policy dictates that if the sponsored person receives income assistance during the sponsorship period, the sponsor is in default and must repay all monies to the government.
"I questioned three provincial government ministers on how they intend to address this situation but realized that none of them seemed to understand the problem well or demonstrated commitment to get rid of it," said Chouhan.
"Although this problem is by no means limited to women, but a disproportionate number of women appear to be falling victims to this type of exploitation," said Thorne, Opposition critic for Women's Issues.
"This highlights the need for more programs and services geared towards our changing multicultural realities and should serve as a wake-up call that gender issues attached to these changes must be addressed appropriately," added Thorne.