Love at First Bite — When It’s Marriage Fraud

We know you were just looking to change things up when you went online to that Internet dating site. Those East European sure are aggressive, eh! A little flirting couldn’t hurt, could it? 

A Love Affair to Last

That depends. Could be your new online companion is in the GTA on a temporary visa due to expire soon. Could be she’s in the Ukraine or Estonia, just waiting to catch an international flight (in the middle of COVID?) to be with you forever (photo by viki2007/Pixabay).

Love at First Sight

It’s possible it’s love at first sight. But online? Seems odd she’s so keen to marry someone she hardly knows. On the other hand, you are getting a bit older. A 41-year-old divorced Fijian-Canadian who met her future spouse online thought love had no borders. Self-supporting and chidless, she flew to Fiji with her saris and Canadian immigration forms to meet her 29-year-old fiancé and his family. Divorced and with a daughter, he confessed he had left his girlfriend just months earlier. Still, his father vouched for him and the arranged marriage was agreed to at a family meeting.

Coming In for a Landing

A broken heart takes time to heal. So it was when he left her just days after arriving in Canada, she sued for fraudulent misrepresentation. Her complaint was simple. She was induced to marry by the heartfelt belief he intended to stay married and was not using her merely to come to Canada. 

When Your Foreign Spouse is a Phony

While it was true they only met for a few hours in Fiji, that was not unusual in her caste. But her fiancé’s motives were clearly cruel and calculated. His representations that he had broken up with his girlfriend and planned to raise a family with her were false or reckless, the court ruled. 

False Promises, False Marriage

The tort of deceit is based on false, flattering promises like her fiancé’s (Bruno Appliance and Furniture, Inc. v Hryniak, 2014):

  1. A false representation made by the defendant.
  2. Some level of knowledge of the falsehood of the representation on the part of the defendant (whether through knowledge or recklessness).
  3. The false representation caused the plaintiff to act.
  4. The plaintiff’s actions resulted in a loss.

Red Flags for Fake Marriages

His quick exit on arrival in Canada wasn’t the only sign something was wrong. His new wife found his girlfriend’s photo and a phone card in his wallet. The spurned spouse got $10,000 in damages for hurt feelings, humiliation, inconvenience and postponing remarrying while she could still have children. He got Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) on his case. Fake marriages can result in deportation, a refused visa and a five-year ban on entering Canada.

Short-lived Nuptials, Long-term Grief

While her intentions were sincere, many marriage scammers‘ are not. A Montreal man who met his Mexican bride online in 2010 got taken for sponsorship, alimony and a lot more. She walked away after two years of marriage with 50% of his salary and their three-year-old. Amherstburg resident Jeff Vanderhorst had a similar experience. His Cuban wife disappeared three weeks after entering Canada in 1999. She got permanent residency (PR) status and went on welfare.

The Hurt Lasts Decades

“Until it happens to you, you’ll never know how it hurts,” Vanderhorst says of his experience. GTA father Saranjeet Benet launched a class action lawsuit against the federal government in 2009 for failing to deport foreigners who trick Canadians into marrying them to get a PR card. His son’s Indian wife left days after landing in Canada. “She divided our family. . . it can never be the same again for us,” he said in a Toronto Star interview.  

What Happens If You Consent

Their experience is worth heeding. Canadians who know a marriage is false can face criminal charges. Whatever the excuse, the inconvenienced one could be you. At the very least IRCC officers could come to your home to investigate. Explain that to the neighbours. Even more frustrating, you’re legally bound to financially support a sponsored spouse, fake or not, for up to three years and pay back any social assistance they collect. 

Ending a Fake Marriage

Be aware, even if you are the wronged party, IRCC may not come to your aid. Fake marriages are hard to prove and often low priority. Meanwhile, you’ll have to annul the marriage or get a divorce if you want to remarry in Ontario. It’s the high price of getting a faker to take a hike.

Get a Valid Marriage Certificate

Axess Law Ontario family lawyers can sign and seal your marriage certificate if you need a valid copy to prove you are legally married. Virtual online lawyers are available 7 days a week, day or evening, via video call. Make a video conference appointment by dialing 1-877-522-9377 or in Greater Toronto 647-479-0118 or use our online booking form. In person meetings are available at our Ottawa, Toronto, Scarborough, Vaughan, Etobicoke, Mississauga Winston Churchill or Mississauga Heartland law offices.

Click here to learn more about Axess Law’s family law services.