ARCHIVED – Backgrounder — Violent criminals barred from sponsoring members of their family

The Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (Regulations), as previously worded, prevented a person from sponsoring a member of the Family Class where the sponsor had been convicted of an offence of a sexual nature against anyone or an offence that resulted in “bodily harm” against specific members of their family. The intent was to assist in the protection of sponsored individuals from family violence.

A Federal Court decision (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration v. Brar, 2008 FC 1285) highlighted a gap in the Regulations. In this decision, a man convicted of killing his brother’s wife was allowed to sponsor his own wife because his sister-in-law did not meet the definition of relative or family member in the Regulations.

This case also highlighted the fact that individuals who committed particularly violent offences against people other than specified members of their family were not barred from family class sponsorship.

The regulatory changes now in force fix both of the gaps highlighted in the Brar decision.

Sponsorship bar for violent crime

The bar on sponsorship for violent crime means that a potential sponsor convicted for committing or attempting to commit a violent offence punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of at least 10 years against anyone is now barred from sponsoring a member of the family class to come to Canada. This regulatory change is similar to the current prohibition for convictions of a sexual nature.

Someone who has committed such a serious crime, regardless of who it was against, should not benefit from the privilege of sponsorship.

Sponsorship bar for family violence

The sponsorship bar for family violence provides that anyone convicted of an offence causing bodily harm against a list of relatives is barred from sponsorship. The previous list of relationships included:

  • the spouse, partner, dependent child, or dependent child of a dependent child of the sponsor or the sponsor’s partner; and
  • the brother/sister, parent/grandparent, aunt/uncle or cousin of the sponsor or the sponsor’s partner.

With the regulatory changes now in force, the following relationships are examples of those now included in the expanded list:

  • the sponsor’s ex-spouse or ex-partner and their children;
  • the ex-spouse of the sponsor’s current spouse or partner and their children;
  • the partner or ex-partner of the sponsor’s brother/sister, parent/grandparent, aunt/uncle, or cousin;
  • the spouse or ex-spouse of the partner’s brother/sister, parent/grandparent, aunt/uncle, or cousin;
  • a foster child under the current or former care and control of the sponsor or their current or ex-spouse or partner; and
  • the sponsor’s current or ex-boyfriend/girlfriend, whether or not they live together, or a family member of that person.

Given the importance of protecting sponsored people from family violence, the addition of these other relationships aims to ensure that there are no future cases of family violence convictions where the sponsorship bar cannot be imposed.

Duration of the sponsorship bar

The sponsorship bar remains in effect until an individual convicted in Canada is either pardoned or acquitted on appeal, or where five years have elapsed since the completion of an imposed sentence. For convictions outside Canada, the sponsorship bar is in effect until an individual is acquitted on appeal, or where five years have elapsed since the completion of an imposed sentence and the sponsor has demonstrated that they are rehabilitated. The regulatory changes do not alter the duration of the bar.


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