Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I am quoted in today's Globe and Mail Editorial.

Canadian immigrants must support relatives they sponsor - The Globe and Mail

June 13, 2011

Canadian immigrants must support relatives they sponsor

From Tuesday's Globe and Mail

Supreme Court of Canada ruling is a welcome one

To maintain the integrity of Canada's immigration program, families who sponsor their relatives cannot renege on their legal undertakings to support them. Wives, parents and grandparents cannot arrive in Canada under the family reunification program, and then start collecting social assistance. That would invite abuse, shift the cost to the public purse, and unduly burden the system.

The Supreme Court of Canada's unanimous ruling that the federal and provincial governments have the right to recoup their losses from sponsors is a welcome one. "The risk of a rogue relative properly lies on the sponsor, not the taxpayer," wrote Mr. Justice Ian Binnie.

Canada's immigration program is already generous, allowing permanent residents to sponsor their spouses, children, parents and grandparents, as long as they support them for three years. In contrast, in the U.S., only citizens may initiate family sponsorships.

Three of the eight sponsors who brought the appeal argued they were victims of exploitation, and were abandoned by their spouses. However, the Supreme Court noted that all sponsors sign undertakings agreeing to be responsible for their spouses, regardless of changes in circumstances. "This is a wake-up call for sponsors to carefully consider the financial implications of a possible breakdown of a relationship," says Sergio Karas, a Toronto immigration lawyer.

The government, of course, must behave responsibly, and promptly notify sponsors if they are in default, so debts don't accumulate without their knowledge. The government can also negotiate the timing of repayment, if sponsors lose their jobs or face other temporary hardships. In Ontario, this principle of fairness is already written into the policy. It notes that certain cases of default are not referred for collection, including those involving domestic violence, or other extraordinary circumstances.

But being duped by a deceitful partner is not an excuse. Sponsors must weigh carefully their legal and contractual obligations before they agree to support another person. Once the relative arrives, there is no escaping responsibility.

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