Jilted bride brings marriage fraud protest to Ottawa
Published Thursday, April 23, 2009 9:05AM EDT
A jilted Canadian bride will wear her former wedding dress to Parliament Hill on Thursday, in an attempt to draw attention to immigration marriage fraud.
Ottawa dance artist Lainie Towell married Fod� Mohamed Soumah two years ago.
She met him while she was studying dance in Guinea in 2004.
Over the next three years, the couple began a long distance romance that saw Towell spending several months in Guinea each year and they eventually decided to start a life together in Canada.
In April 2007, the two married in Conakry, Guinea, and eight months later Soumah moved to Ottawa to be with his bride on New Year's Eve of the same year.
But within four weeks, Soumah was gone.
"I'm a dance artist and I was at the studio waiting for him to come and play for a class. He's a musician and he never showed up that night," Towell told CTV's Canada AM from Ottawa.
"When I arrived home, the closet was empty, the wedding ring was on the counter and I never saw him again until his admissibility hearing a few weeks ago."
He told Towell that he wasn't coming home, he wanted a divorce and that she would be paying for his social services costs.
And it was true: Towell had signed a contract with Citizenship and Immigration Canada that made her financially responsible for her soon-to-be ex-husband for the next three years, whether or not their marriage succeeded.
"I was very hurt and I was devastated, for sure," she said Thursday.
"It's sort of like the person I married and was in love with, never really existed," she added.
This burden is part of the reason Towell will walk to Parliament Hill in her former wedding dress Thursday.
Soumah has since been issued a removal order from Canada because he had failed to disclose that he had a prior child in Guinea. (The removal order is not related to Towell's allegation of immigration marriage fraud.)
But as a permanent resident, Soumah has exercised the right to appeal his removal order.
And because Towell is still listed as his sponsor, she remains financially responsible for him while he makes his appeal.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said Towell's story is sadly far from uncommon.
"I would say it's one of the most frequent forms of immigration fraud," Kenney told CTV's Canada AM, commenting on immigration marriage fraud.
Canada employs skilled migration integrity officers to try to root out would-be fraudsters before they can get their foot in the door, he said.
"The most important thing, first of all, is to prevent from happening in the first instance, because there are thousands of people who are victimized by this," Kenney said Thursday morning.
Such scenarios take advantage of both men and women, with incoming spouses often fleeing their marriages within weeks or months of arriving in Canada.
Kenney said the migration integrity officers do their best to prevent cases of immigration marriage fraud.
Proposed spouses are questioned closely about their motives for marrying, their intentions once they get to Canada and their connection to their bride- or groom-to-be.
It has to be done this way, Kenney said, because once a person marries a Canadian citizen and lands in Canada, it becomes much more complicated to remove them on allegations of fraud.
"As soon as someone has abandoned their spouse, if they've left, an investigation can start," Kenney said. "But frankly, the sponsored spouse has all sorts of legal rights once they hit Canadian soil and it's impossible to remove someone like that quickly."