What options do women in polygamous immigrant families have in Canada? / by IMAGINE Clinic

IMAGINE aims to serve persons who may be unable to access other allied health services for which OHIP (Ontario provincial health insurance) is required. One such underserved group includes undocumented migrants to Canada.

Migrants may be undocumented for a variety of reasons and without documents are in a vulnerable position, lacking access to many government services, including OHIP.

This month, a Maclean’s Magazine article on polygamous immigrant families raised the question of the rights of women in polygamous marriages who immigrate to Canada under specious legal terms. http://www2.macleans.ca/2013/10/01/how-to-get-into-canada-if-youre-a-pol...

Canada’s legal system currently recognizes unions of two individuals. Unions of three or more persons are not considered valid, with only the earliest-dated union in such cases considered the only legal one under Canadian law.

What options does this leave for immigrant families that consist of multiple spouses?

The Maclean’s article notes a notorious case in which a man claimed one of his wives as a cousin in their immigration documents.

Mohammad Shafia told Canadian immigration authorities that his wife, Rona Amir Mohammad, was his cousin, which allowed her to enter the country on a visitor’s visa. Mohammad Shafia went on to murder three of his daughters and Rona Amir Mohammad in Kingston, ON and was subsequently found guilty of quadruple homicide in the first degree. During the trial, details emerged about the emotional abuse that Rona Amir Mohammed endured in the household at the hands of her husband and his second wife.

For me, this case raises many questions:

Could Rona Amir Mohammad have sought intervention and support through official channels (police, social services, etc)? 

Would doing so have exposed inaccuracies in her immigration paperwork? 

Having filed false immigration paperwork, did she feel vulnerable to punitive measures and deportation? 

What options do women like Rona have when a domestic situation becomes volatile? Do they have to choose between enduring abuse at home, facing deportation through seeking official help, and becoming undocumented by leaving the home without support? 

What do you think?