Stop the Polygamy!?

By Author: Admin | November 10, 2014

The proposed law, the alarmist and shrilly titled “Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act – Addressing Polygamy” will no doubt be a Great Tool for officers to refuse applications on the basis of misrepresentation (if, for example, a man fails to declare his polygamy to an officer thus leading to a ban from Canada or a loss of permanent resident status).  The title as it stands pits the civilized Canadian immigration officer applying the soon to be ‘law of the land’ against the external barbarian who possesses quaint and misogynist customs.

In fact, the law as proposed may make women more vulnerable by barring their entry to Canada – women who may want to be liberated from a polygamous relationship effectively blaming  the victim, i.e. the vulnerable woman who is the subject of the polygamy.

Some question about how many applicants  for immigration to Canada this would actuallyaffect since most polygamists (at least from the Middle East) tend to be too old to immigrate to Canada (polygamists generally partaking in the practice only after spending many years to accumulate the required wealth to do so).

Another proposal includes changing the age of marriage across Canada from 12 to 16 which would be more of a housekeeping change in the law that would effect consistency  to the age of marriage; not vitally urgent, given the small number of such marriages that have taken place in recent times, but certainly laudable in a low-adrenaline, bureaucratic way.

One may have concern whether there is a need to have more stringent legislation on the subject of polygamy.  One of the rare cases of immigration litigation on the topic confirmed that the law as currently drafted was sufficient to address the concern of importing polygamy into Canada.  I only found 9 cases in Canadian immigration law where this was an issue and all squared the issue away, prohibiting polygamy under the currently drafted immigration and criminal laws of Canada.  The immigration department admitted as such in its current website “Those guilty of these crimes are severely punished under Canada’s criminal laws”  (i.e. Canada’s current immigration and criminal laws.)

One question is whether the scope of the proposed legislation will capture a previous (but subsequently terminated)episode of polygamy hence rendering many more people inadmissible to Canada (in other words  former polygamists).  This could also affect situations where there are children of a polygamist from two different mothers who may be separated from a mother if immigration is being considered.  This makes more work for the government (who have to train officers to scrutinize applications  in a procedurally fair manner without too much profiling) but will mean more work for Canada’s immigration lawyers.


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