Help for spouses or partners who are victims of abuse
You don’t have to stay in an abusive relationship to keep your status in Canada
The person who’s abusing you might tell you that you’ll be deported or lose your children if you leave. If you’re a permanent resident, you have rights and freedoms in Canada.
There used to be a condition on some sponsored spouses or partners of Canadian citizens and permanent residents. Under that condition, you had to live with your sponsor to keep permanent resident status. That condition no longer exists, and your status no longer depends on you living with your sponsor.
Get help if someone is threatening you
- Call 9-1-1 or your local police in an emergency.
- Call 1-888-242-2100 to contact our Client Support Centre for information on your citizenship or immigration status.
- Choose the option for victims of abuse and forced marriage to speak directly to an agent.
- They will tell you about your options. This includes a fee-exempt permit created for victims of family violence who need to escape their abusive spouse or partner.
- Call 2-1-1 to find community, social and health services.
- Find more services and information to deal with violence and abuse.
- If you are a woman escaping violence, find a women’s shelter.
- If you are a young person who needs support, you can talk to counsellors without giving your name at Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868 or visit their website.
How to get help
We have organizations that can offer you support or helpful information. Services are confidential.
Find out how to get help if you are a victim of abuse or neglect.
- You might feel very alone in Canada.
- Your abuser might lie to you about your status in Canada.
- You might find it hard to talk to people.
- You might fear for your safety and the safety of your children.
- You might find it hard to communicate in English or French.
- You might be confused about your rights under Canadian law.
Getting help is not shameful. You have the right to seek help.
If you are facing family violence and are afraid of losing your immigration status in Canada by leaving your abusive spouse or partner, you have options:
- If you have valid temporary status in Canada, you may be able to:
- extend or renew your status
- If your temporary status is expired, you may be eligible to:
- Different programs are available to immigrate to Canada, such as applying for permanent residence under humanitarian and compassionate grounds
In Canada, abuse is not tolerated.
You don’t have to stay in an abusive situation.
What is abuse or neglect
- Abuse is behaviour that scares, isolates, or controls another person. This may be actions or words. Abuse may be a pattern or a single incident.
- Neglect is the failure to provide care, which can cause serious harm. This may be not providing food, clothing, medical care or shelter, or any other behaviour that could be hurtful.
There are many types of abuse or neglect. As a victim, you may experience more than 1 type of abuse.
The abuser could be your spouse, former spouse, partner or former partner, another family member or friend. The abuser could also be a member of your spouse’s or partner’s family. The abuser may be male or female.
Types of abuse or neglect
Physical abuse is contact that intimidates or hurts, for example
- hitting or pushing
- slapping or punching
- cutting or stabbing
Sexual abuse is any sexual touching or action that is done against your will. This is a crime in Canada, even if you are in a relationship with your abuser. For example, when someone
- touches you or acts in a sexual way without your consent
- continues sexual activity when you have asked them to stop
- forces you to commit unsafe or humiliating sexual acts
Emotional or psychological abuse might include
- insulting, humiliating or yelling
- harassing or threatening
- intimidating, name-calling or disrespecting
- criticizing or blaming
- breaking your things
- hurting or threatening to hurt family, friends or pets
- keeping you from seeing your family or friends
- threatening to take away or hurt your children
Financial abuse is when someone limits your access to money to hurt you, for example
- taking your paycheck or money without permission
- withholding money, so that you can’t pay for things you or your children need, such as food, shelter or medical treatment
Controlling behaviour that limits your freedom, such as
- withholding your passport, identification or other important documents
- keeping you in your home and not allowing you to leave
- constantly questioning and monitoring your Internet and phone use
- not allowing you to see your family and friends
Neglect is when a family member who has a duty to care for you fails to provide you with your basic needs. This can involve
- not providing proper food or warm clothing
- not providing adequate health care or medication
- failing to prevent physical harm
Forced marriage is when consent is not freely given by at least one of the parties to the marriage. Unlike arranged marriages which take place with the consent of both parties, in forced marriages, individuals are coerced to marry, usually by family members, through threats, physical violence, or emotional manipulation.
Other Government of Canada links
Provincial and territorial resources
- Human services on family violence
- Family, social and caregiver supports
- Connect: Family and Sexual Abuse Network
- New Brunswick Services for Women Who Have Experienced Violence or Abuse / Services au Nouveau-Brunswick pour les femmes qui ont subit de la violence ou de l’abus (PDF, 168 KB)
Newfoundland and Labrador
If you are in Ontario and experiencing domestic violence, you can have a free consultation with a private lawyer by calling 1-800-668-8258.
Prince Edward Island
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