Domestic violence among immigrant women a growing concern

Watch the video above: Helping newcomers understand Canada’s domestic abuse rules

SASKATOON – Domestic violence remains a significant issue across Canada, yet many cases continue to go unreported.

According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation website, “immigrant women may be more vulnerable to domestic violence due to economic dependence, language barriers and a lack of knowledge about community resources.”

The foundation goes on to say “newcomers who arrive in Canada traumatized by war or oppressive governments are much less likely to report physical or sexual violence to the authorities, for fear of further victimization or even deportation.”

Being able to build bridges and break down barriers has been crucial to Constable Jing Xiao’s job with Saskatoon police. She works closely with immigrants, refugees and international students.

Xiao has noticed a reluctance among new Canadians to report crime, especially domestic violence.

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“That could be because sometimes they have had bad experiences in their home countries and they think the police officers are corrupt and violent,” she tells Global News.

“So they just assume it’s the same in Canada.”

Xiao says often immigrant women do not realize domestic violence is a crime, much less that they are victims of it.

The Government of Canada website defines abuse as “behaviour used to intimidate, isolate, dominate or control another person. It may be a pattern or a single incident.”

Abuse can take several forms, including physical, sexual, psychological, financial and neglect.

The Saskatoon Police Service has an interpreter program with more than 60 interpreters who may be called upon to assist with investigations or situations where language is a barrier.

“If the women come with children, culturally the women are kept at home taking care of the children so these factors add more isolation,” says Karin Portillo-Malpass, with the Saskatoon Open Door Society.

According to the group, domestic violence among newcomer Canadian women in Saskatoon is up.

Malpass says often men control the family finances. Then there is the fear of deportation.

Regulations were put into effect in October 2012 regarding spouses or partners being sponsored to live in Canada.

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It affects those who have been in a relationship for two years or less and who have no children with their sponsor when they apply for permanent resident status.

According to the Government of Canada web page, “If you have been granted conditional permanent residence, you must live together with your sponsor in a legitimate relationship for two years from the day you receive conditional permanent residence.”

Though regulations also stipulate that you do not have to stay in an abusive relationship to keep your status.

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