A woman who is a newcomer to Canada faces many challenges if she separates from her husband. She may be concerned about whether she can stay in Canada, have fears that her partner may try to take the children back to the home country or have trouble collecting support if her partner leaves the country.
Women who are not sure of their status may not want to do anything to insist on their rights for fear of being deported from Canada.
A woman can claim custody or support even if she does not have legal status in Canada. However, her right to stay in Canada after she separates from her partner depends on her immigration status and, possibly, on her partner’s status.
If a woman is landed, or a permanent resident of Canada when her relationship ends, she cannot lose this status or be removed from Canada.
If she became a permanent resident when her partner sponsored her to come to Canada, her partner is financially responsible for her for 3 years, whether or not they stay together. If her partner will not continue to support her, she can apply for social assistance.
If a woman has applied for permanent residency but is still waiting to hear about her application when her relationship ends, she can apply to stay in Canada by filing a new claim based on humanitarian and compassionate (H & C) grounds.
Making an H & C application will not protect a woman from deportation: she can be deported while her case is ongoing and then may be permitted to return to Canada if her application is successful.
If a woman is in Canada as a refugee claimant, she should be able to stay in Canada after her relationship ends, unless her claim was based on her partner’s situation. If it was, she can only stay in Canada if she can make her own claim for refugee status. To do this, she must show that she is at risk in her own country and that the government cannot or will not protect her. If her refugee claim fails, she can make an H & C application.
A woman may be in Canada without status, either because her temporary status has expired or because she entered the country illegally. Even though she does not have status, she has the same rights under family law as any woman living in Ontario. However, entering the family court system may make it easier for immigration officials to find and deport her.