Media Releases

Researcher calls for national plan to address violence against immigrant and refugee women

November 17, 2014

New study examines impact of recent policy changes by federal government

TORONTO, ON — Recent changes to Cana­di­an immi­gra­tion pol­i­cy mean few­er social and health sup­ports for immi­grant women with a pre­car­i­ous immi­gra­tion sta­tus – putting them at an increased risk of vio­lence, researchers say.

“Between 2008 and 2013, the Cana­di­an gov­ern­ment intro­duced an unprece­dent­ed num­ber of leg­isla­tive and reg­u­la­to­ry changes that have affect­ed immi­grants’ and refugees’ access to legal rep­re­sen­ta­tion, access to social and health ser­vices, and path­ways to per­ma­nent res­i­dence,” said Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor Rupaleem Bhuyan of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toronto’s Fac­tor Inwen­tash Fac­ul­ty of Social Work. 

Bhuyan is the lead author of Unpro­tect­ed, unrec­og­nized: Cana­di­an immi­gra­tion pol­i­cy and vio­lence against women, 2008–2013. The study is part of the Migrant Moth­ers Project, a col­lab­o­ra­tive research project led by Bhuyan in part­ner­ship with a net­work of com­mu­ni­ty groups work­ing to address vio­lence against immi­grant women.

The report calls for a nation­al plan to address vio­lence against immi­grant and refugee women and immi­gra­tion poli­cies that bet­ter sup­port immi­grants in pre­car­i­ous cir­cum­stances. It calls on the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to abol­ish the two-year con­di­tion­al sta­tus for spon­sored spous­es, rein­state access to the Inter­im Fed­er­al Health pro­gram to all refugee claimants and uphold the pri­va­cy of all peo­ple who have access to social and health ser­vices.

More than one mil­lion peo­ple live in Cana­da on a tem­po­rary visa, as inter­na­tion­al stu­dents, tem­po­rary for­eign work­ers or refugee claimants, Bhuyan said. They are reg­u­lar­ly turned away by ser­vice providers in health care, women’s shel­ters and oth­er sup­port ser­vices because they are not per­ma­nent res­i­dents or con­ven­tion refugees and, there­fore, not eli­gi­ble for ser­vices.

At the same time, strin­gent new poli­cies have been intro­duced, such as the two-year con­di­tion­al per­ma­nent res­i­dence for new­ly-spon­sored spouses/partners, bring “undue hard­ship for new­com­ers who are fac­ing domes­tic vio­lence,” said Bhuyan.

“For women who are fac­ing vio­lence, access to shel­ter, income sup­port and legal assis­tance can often be the dif­fer­ence between return­ing to an abu­sive sit­u­a­tion and inde­pen­dence from a vio­lent rela­tion­ship.”

The project also includes a col­lec­tion of dig­i­tal sto­ries by migrant women and their advo­cates, doc­u­ment­ing their per­son­al strug­gles first hand: Till Immi­gra­tion Tears Us Apart: Sto­ries of Strength through Strug­gle.The threat of deten­tion and depor­ta­tion is poignant­ly described in the dig­i­tal sto­ry Leav­ing my child behind, Bhuyan said.

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For more infor­ma­tion, con­tact:

Rupaleem Bhuyan
Fac­tor Inwen­tash Fac­ul­ty of Social Work
Tel: 416–910-8205

Harmy Men­doza
Woman Abuse Coun­cil of Toron­to: Wom­e­n­ACT
Tel: 647–501-0984