Playing Matchmaker

July 17th, 2006

People marry for all kinds of reasons. Love. Money. Companionship. A better life. Most of the time, the decision to marry is complex and involves multiple reasons. Who could possibly state with conviction that they know exactly why another person decided to tie the knot?

Apparently, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) believes it can. With the regulation that spouses, common-law and conjugal partners may only sponsor their partner for immigration to Canada if their relationship is “genuine”, CIC is claiming it can objectively distinguish between those who marry for the primary purpose of immigrating to Canada and those who marry for “genuine” reasons.

The concept of using an objective test to assess the reasons for entering a marriage or long-term relationship is absurd. Recently, a Canadian woman tried to sponsor her Pakistani husband and was rejected because she was previously divorced and had the custody of her child from the former marriage. The locally hired Canadian visa officer in Pakistan did not believe the marriage was genuine because, according to local custom, a Pakistani man would not marry a divorced woman, especially when that woman had custody of a child from the earlier marriage. This hardly sounds like an objective test.

CIC is doing no more than playing matchmaker by delving so deeply into such intimate subjects and asserting its own ideas of what a good marriage makes. If one of the reasons people commit to each other is to have a better life in Canada, is that so terrible? Considering some of the reasons people get married in Canada, and considering how many marriages end in failure anyways, why is CIC so concerned about upholding some subjective notion of what marriage should be about?

It’s true that CIC does have to be concerned about how the sponsored person will be able to support himself or herself in Canada if the relationship fails. But the fact is that all sponsors still have to sign an agreement promising to provide for the sponsored person’s essential needs for three years, regardless of whether the relationship is maintained.

To discourage marriages of convenience, perhaps the sponsorship agreements could be extended. This would allow the “genuineness test” to become more objective and it would be based on the willingness of the sponsor to make a long-term financial commitment.

Whatever the issues that may arise, the truth is that CIC’s role as romantic matchmaker has to be debated. At the very least, this practice of rejecting otherwise eligible applicants because they didn’t marry for the “right reason” seems worthy of discussion. Even the most prescient of people cannot predict which relationships will work and which will fail, and the Government of Canada seems no better at playing matchmaker.

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