Canada fights wedding fraud abroad
In India, one temple had a rent-a-wedding scam to help couples get faster residency in Canada.
Shah Moayedi called the police, fearing the worst when his wife vanished. Officers turned up a telling piece of evidence of a crime: A note in his wife's handwriting, saying that she was sorry for leaving him. She said Mr. Moayedi was a nice person but she was expecting something more when she married him two months earlier in Cuba.Skip to next paragraph
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The crime? Marriage fraud. She used him to get into Canada.
"I thought she was my soul mate, the only person in the world for me," the Canadian airport baggage handler says today, two years after his Cuban wife left him. "But not only did she defraud the government, she defrauded me, playing with my emotions. It's humiliating."
Although the Canadian government says it keeps no figures on it, immigration officials and lawyers say foreigners are increasingly using phony marriages as a way to gain entry to Canada.
The federal government has quietly been ramping up its training programs for immigration officials and has formed a working group to try to figure out how to crack down on sham marriages. Department of Citizenship and Immigration Minister Diane Finley returned from India six weeks ago where she investigated some of the methods used to dupe Canadian officials.
"We take marriages of convenience and fraudulent marriages very seriously," she told reporters at a news conference. "Canadians want an immigration system that helps legitimate immigrants and we plan to make sure that all immigrants to Canada are legitimate."
More than 20,000 people enter Canada as new immigrants each year in the spousal category.
The federal Tories, members of the Conservative Party of Canada, have also recently floated a controversial discussion paper to overhaul existing overseas marriage laws. Many immigration lawyers are opposed to the changes because they would result in too many genuine marriages being rejected by immigration officials. The Canadian Bar Association plans to respond to the discussion paper this week.
While the government has been loath to reveal which countries are being targeted in their ongoing investigations, immigration lawyers and concerned politicians say the vast majority of marriage fraud is being perpetrated in countries like India, Vietnam, and China.
Roy Cullen, a federal Liberal politician who represents a district outside Toronto with a large Indo-Canadian population, says he's been agitating for a crackdown for years. "I'm really only taking cues from my constituents," Mr. Cullen explains. "They are very concerned about this attack on the credibility of our immigration system and the destabilizing effect that fraudulent marriages have on their community."