Motherhood is both the best job in the world and also one of the most intense, challenging and all-consuming. Parenting, financial planning, and dealing with external societal factors are all challenges that are often central to a mother’s lived experience. These challenges are typically compounded for women who have intersecting identities: marital status, socioeconomic status, age, immigration status, etc. One specific group of mothers face a unique combination of challenges: mothers without status may also have to choose between remaining in an abusive intimate relationship, living without access to social services and the ability to work, or deportation.
When referring to “mothers without status,” we refer to mothers who are neither Canadian citizens or permanent citizens. They do not have a permanent status under the Immigration & Refugee Protection Act to stay and work in Canada, but family court orders may also restrain them from bringing their children with them when leaving Canada. They live in the constant fear of deportation while their children remain in the custody of the abusive ex-partner or the Ministry of Children and Family Development (BC).
Violence Against Mothers Without Status in Canada: Facts
According to the YWCA’s Research Report, it is estimated that in British Columbia alone, there are at least 60 women living in this situation. These women showed little commonality in age, country of origin and even socioeconomics, ranging from those who grew up in poor to upper middle class households. The majority of them came on a visitor visa after getting into a serious relationship with a Canadian citizen but never obtained legal status as a result of abuse and broken visa promises.
Barriers Mothers Without Status Face
Although mothers without status face similar forms of violence that Canadian-born women experience, they also face additional barriers. They are often unable to legally work to provide for their children, access culturally-appropriate social services and assisted housing, or access the justice system for help.
A form of abuse faced uniquely by mothers without status is the threat of being reported and removed from Canada without their children. The ex-partner may terminate the sponsorship process, leaving the woman in immigration limbo and at a disadvantage in custody battles. The legal system can also be extra challenging to navigate when English isn’t their first language, or if their partner purposefully misinforms them of their rights.
The lack of legal, health, and financial support can also exacerbate the feeling of isolation in an abusive relationship, preventing them further from learning about their rights and reaching out to women’s organizations for assistance. Living with these fears pressures them into staying with their abuser.
How Shelter Movers is Supporting Women who Experience Abuse Regardless of Their Immigration Status
Currently, many people are not aware of these barriers that prevent mothers without status from leaving abuse. That’s why such a focus is much needed to alleviate their sufferings and protect their children.
In the early 2000s, YWCA launched the Mothers Without Legal Status in Canada Project to focus on supporting mothers without status with income assistance, housing, and legal aid while advocating for change at the provincial and national levels. Their research report (2010) is a great resource for Canadians to understand the depth of this issue and identify ways to make meaningful changes.
As an ally for women’s rights, Shelter Movers acknowledges the unique practical and legal challenges that mothers without status face in Canada. Shelter Movers alleviates logistical and financial barriers for anyone, regardless of their immigration status, to leave their abusive partner by making all the arrangements to move and store belongings securely. Beyond providing support to help survivors transition to a life free of violence, Shelter Movers also partners with organizations such as the YWCA and MOSAIC who offer specific initiatives aimed at mothers without status.