Canadian Journal of Family Law


Sarah Pringle

First Page


Document Type

Allan Falconer Memorial Student Essay


Migrants can obtain permanent residency in Canada under the family-reunification category set out in s. 12(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA). Canadian citizens or permanent residents may apply to sponsor their non-citizen spouse, common law or conjugal partner, or other relatives to move to Canada pursuant to s. 117(1)(a) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR). The bad-faith clause under s. 4(1) of the IRPR requires spousal-sponsorship applicants to prove to visa officers that, on a balance of probabilities, their relationship is “genuine” and not “entered into primarily for the purpose of acquiring any status or privilege under the [IRPA]”. The bad-faith clause is meant to prevent so-called marriage fraud: the idea that migrants, hoping to take advantage of the family-reunification regime, trick vulnerable Canadians into marriage and then subsequently abandon them once they have obtained citizenship status. Drawing on the work of feminist, anti-racist, and anti-colonial scholars, this paper argues that the construction of marriage fraud as a threat to national security rationalizes an increasingly exclusionary spousal-sponsorship regime post 9/11. Focusing on this “threat” detracts from the insidious naturalization of the neo-liberal, hetero-patriarchal, and white settler–colonial values that animate the exclusionary nature of family class migration—values that pre-date the recent moral panic over marriage fraud. This paper concludes by sounding a cautionary bell: Canadians must be wary of the ongoing reproduction and sedimentation of exclusionary values that give meaning to legal constructions of family because they reinforce and perpetuate experiences of precarity among migrants who live on the underside of global capitalism.