Monday, November 08, 2010

You married a 7-11?

I remember a few years back, a friend of mine had traveled to Kenya for whatever reason, but while there fell in love with a young woman. He returned to Canada, intent on moving on, but was so smitten that he was unable to forget her despite limited contact for a full year. He attempted to bring her back here as his wife, but was constantly dogged at every turn by immigration. Finally he flew to Kenya, married her, and brought her back through a circuitous route.
Now imagine that he hadn't fallen madly in love; pretend that he barely knew her, but still flew to Kenya, married her and brought her back, just to help her gain citizenship.
Back in 2007, Immigration officials began to notice a problem with the system of immigration marriages, with people complaining that they had married people who left as soon as they were in Canada (sometimes apparently, even leaving from the airport which, after having spent time in the airport, I'm not sure I can fault them...) and Immigration Canada decided they needed to do something about this. They began cracking down, focusing on consistency in officer training and official regulations, and even "reaching out" to communities which practiced arranged marriages.
It seems the measures could be considered ineffective, however, since the problem is still running around, and now Immigration has turned to the unwashed masses for ideas. In September they posted a survey asking Canadians for information "on the magnitude of the problem as well as opinions and ideas on how best to address it."
and, as we all know, asking the denizens for advice is a sure sign that you're scraping the bottom of the barrel.Or you really want people to support your new arena (Whoops!). As well, anecdotal evidence, especially when culled from the Internet hate-machine, is notoriously unreliable. But let us bite our tongues, here for a moment and peruse the hundreds of heart-wrenching stories of people who met online, became hopelessly in love, and decided to take the leap of faith that constitutes marriage and importing a spouse. Allow the spine to become malleable when these people assert that they were just used for their nationality with no regard for their feelings, etc. Consider the financial burden because they are obligated to support their wayward spouse for three years upon landing and the sadness if a divorce appears inevitable.
All right. Feel lousy?
Onward to solutions.
You see we're going to...well...uh...the immigration department should...uhm. Huh. Boy, I guess there is little to nothing the immigration department CAN do. Consider, we cannot even prevent people from entering into lousy marriages on our own home turf with people who have met face to face and presumably even had to see each others' dirty laundry. Brittany, poster-girl for bad decisions, was married for 55 hours, and we could do nothing but perhaps suggest that a white leather veil is both impractical and disgusting, despite being on sale at Wal-mart. I cannot support the immigration department policing people's motivations to get married, however. Marriage is one of those things  we still don't fully understand. It means different things to different people. Many people believe it should mean only one thing, but even within that one meaning there are so many different flavors that when we attempt to dissect them to show which is "right" or "wrong" we end up arbitrarily drawing a line that could exclude some people unjustly, especially considering how hard it is to quantify love, to predict who will genuinely "make it", or even to know what "making it" means (if people divorce after 40, 50, even 60 years together, is there ever a time we can say "yes, you've made it"?).
Even with the idea of prosecution after the fact we cannot neglect the notion that some people overseas may fall in love as well, only to become hopelessly disillusioned once they arrive. It is a decidedly ethnocentric notion that we as a society produce such superior beings that any person who arrives here must instantly be grateful and in love with the person they intended to marry. We can, however, insist that these people return to their own countries if the marriage does not proceed so, if  they fail to, then we may pursue and prosecute them, but this is the same nature of violation immigration deals with all the time.
Thus we are left with only a few choices, the best of which I know people hate: personal accountability. True, it's hard to uncover really talented con-people, but if they are clever enough to dupe someone into marriage, then they'd likely gain access to Canada anyway. But we must begin to consider marriage in a more serious light given that it is a serious deal, with financial, legal, personal implications. It seems many people do not realize that. It would take more work to promote a "grassroots" initiative (grassroots is the new buzzword, and I was just dying to try it out. I feel filthy.) surrounding marriage but it seems like the best choice, unless you could imagine yourself standing in front of a judge telling him why her smile makes you happy in the morning and how that means you will never leave her.

UPDATE  14/11/10
Holy smokes! I want to make it perfectly clear that the title is a joke about being a "marriage of convenience" (7-11 being a convenience store) NOT a crass joke about marrying someone of middle eastern descent (who are often stereotyped as running convenience stores)!

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