Ashby: Proof of love is not as simple as immigration officials would have it

One of the best pieces of commentary on the CIC bogus marriage training guide (no longer used but no clarity on what the current training tools say):

A Citizenship and Immigration Canada training guide that leaked last week has exposed the inner workings of CIC’s unique perspective on what makes a good marriage.

Apparently, what makes a good marriage is having a lot of money. Money for a diamond ring. (DeBeers must be pleased. Diamonds are forever, which is approximately as long as it takes to obtain a permanent residency card.) Money for a big wedding — more than “small groups of friends.” (That dream elopement with just a handful of friends and family, away from big fat wedding drama? Sorry, lovebirds. Size matters.) Money for a big wedding venue — no restaurants allowed. (Rubber chicken dinners and serviette swans for everyone! It’ll be romantic, just like an annual general meeting!) Money for a honeymoon. And if one of you comes from a country without much money? Well, your marriage might not be valid.

But above all, the CIC is looking for body language (or at least was when the document, dated 2007, was issued.) Like the “body language experts” employed by supermarket tabloids and gossip rags, officials at the CIC believe they can learn the truth about a relationship based on who is smiling, how far apart they stand, and the expressions on their faces. The irony of a group of Canadians judging the citizens of other nations on their ability to emote and show affection is apparently lost on the CIC. Canada is a great country full of wonderful people, all of whom do everything possible to avoid each others’ eyes.

This dependence on photographic evidence is line with the 2014 findings of McMaster University professor Vic Satzewich, believed to be one of only two Canadian researchers in 50 years permitted to investigate CIC’s visa policies up close. Over two years, Satzewich visited 11 of CIC’s overseas visa application sites. From Hong Kong to Colombia, Canadian officials judge marriages by body language, number of guests at a wedding, seeming amount spent on the wedding, and the contents of love letters. His conclusion? That the system was profoundly vulnerable to racist social engineering.

“The system allows racial biases to creep in the selection process. They could use their authority to put it bluntly and crudely, to keep Canada white,” he told the Toronto Star.

This comes at a time when Canada’s rules for family-class immigrants have changed in an attempt to weed out marriage fraud. Marriage fraud is a real problem. But it’s one that’s often associated with conniving “marriage consultants” and “matchmakers,” who fleece both sides of the marriage. It’s akin to human trafficking. Spouses in Canada are promised a loving partner (or just uncomplicated sex), while spouses elsewhere are promised a ticket out of poverty. Both are expected to pay thousands of dollars in consultation fees. Some couples are trying to hack the system, it’s true. But family-class immigrants already make up less than one quarter of Canada’s immigrant population. And now they are regarded with deep suspicion.

Perhaps that suspicion comes from Canada’s history. Between 1663 and 1673, whole sections of Canada were populated by Les Filles du Roi, who closed their eyes and thought of freedom while the men who’d had them imported did their best to increase the tax base of New France. Perhaps the CIC is simply trying to avoid a similar injustice. And it’s important to realize that the CIC does want to protect people, and that it has mandatory acceptance quotas. The concern is how it fills them.

Judging someone else’s marriage isn’t unusual. It’s the favourite sport of mothers-in-law everywhere. But the prevailing truth about marriage is that it, like immigration, is a “black box” process. No one outside it knows what’s going on inside it — and even the people inside it are occasionally mystified. Yearning emails, dirty texts, and smug selfies only tell part of the story. If the CIC really wanted to know about the validity of a marriage, they would ask about who makes the coffee, who does the laundry, who co-ordinates the social plans. Plenty of “real” marriages have depended on far less. And if spouses needed to demonstrate true love in order to share a household, then plenty of us wouldn’t even be here today.

Ashby: Proof of love is not as simple as immigration officials would have it | Ottawa Citizen.

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

One Response to Ashby: Proof of love is not as simple as immigration officials would have it

  1. Alarenzo Stefani says:

    I think the real marriage fraud is when CIC makes illegal decisions based on bogus criteria and forces people to make marrying foreigner synonymous with giving up your rights as a citizen. I already began making plans to leave Canada and seek permanent residence in another country when I married a foreign citizen because I don’t trust CIC to not abuse me and my partner.

    Canada’s a big country, they need to go innocent until proven guilty. Forcing anyone to go to appeals is an abuse of process unless it is a bogus relationship.

    If any discrimination is happening in CIC, then go after those responsible with discrimination and charges.

    We need an ombudsperson, rights, etc. Maybe we need to realize we cannot hope to regulate something as private and fundamental to human rights as marriage if we want to observe human rights. Time to choose the lesser evil – let some fake marriages slide to avoid abusing tons of innocents. Just like free speech is a fine line.

    Fight for rights! Make them accountable! Hold them to the law!

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