Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has adopted regulatory amendments implemented family violence measures to reduce vulnerability to gender-based violence in the immigration system. In June 2015, a regulatory amendment to increase the minimum age of a recognized spouse from 16 to 18 in all permanent and temporary immigration programs came into effect. This amendment is intended to decrease the number of potentially vulnerable young spouses immigrating to Canada who may not have the capacity to act in their own best interest, and helps prevent the occurrence of forced marriages.

Read more: Change to minimum age of eligibility of spouses, common-law or conjugal partners in temporary and permanent immigration programs

At the same time, regulations were implemented to ensure that marriages conducted by proxy, telephone, fax, Internet or similar forms (i.e., marriages where one or both parties was not physically present at the marriage ceremony) would no longer be recognized within Canada’s permanent and temporary immigration programs. The nature of these marriages may facilitate forced marriages because one or both spouses are not physically present making it difficult to determine if they consent to the marriage. These regulatory amendments help reduce the number of vulnerable individuals who fall victim to forced marriage in order to gain immigration status.

Theme: Violence and Vulnerabilities

GCM Objective: 7

In 2019, the Government of Canada implemented two initiatives to support those whose immigration status may be precarious due to the reliance on an abusive spouse or partner for their status in Canada.

First, individuals in this vulnerable situation who are out-of-status may apply for an expedited, fee-exempt, temporary resident permit (TRP), which includes a fee-exempt work permit and Interim Federal Health Program coverage. This provides protection to vulnerable individuals who are victims of family violence and/or their dependent foreign national children in Canada through security of short-term immigration status to help escape the influence of abuse, and grant them time to decide their next course of action.

Secondly, an expedited process is available for individuals in Canada who are in urgent situations of family violence and who apply for permanent residence on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. This means individuals will have their permanent residence applications processed more quickly, with the goal of helping them leave abusive situations as expeditiously as possible.

Theme: Violence and Vulnerabilities

GCM Objective: 7

In 2018 the Government of Canada began modernizing how it handles information on sex and gender. This led Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to introduce its first Policy on Client Sex and Gender identifier in January 2021. The policy establishes for all IRCC lines of business how to collect, record, and display a client’s sex or gender identifier as accurately as possible. The sex or gender identifier includes female (F), male (M), and non-binary (X). This policy enhances the privacy of clients by eliminating unnecessary displays of sex or gender information. It provides individuals with a non-binary option that better reflects their gender while enabling IRCC’s collection of more inclusive gender data. It also ensures that individuals are able to obtain identity documents and personal records that align with their gender while supporting the integrity of IRCC programs.

Theme: Migration Data and Registration

GCM Objective: 1, 4