#WWV16: Mothers without Legal Status

By YWCA Metro Vancouver

This week, YWCAs across Canada commemorate YWCA Week without Violence, an annual week of violence prevention. Follow the campaign on Facebook and Twitter to stay informed and share our posts with your networks.


At the YWCA, decades of experience have shown us that when we meet the needs of women on the margins, all women benefit.  It’s why we continue with our advocacy efforts for Mothers without Legal Status. If we can help Mothers without Legal Status feel safe, supported and free from violence, then we are promoting a culture that believes all women should be free from violence.

Mothers without Legal Status are women who do not have permanent status under the Immigration & Refugee Protection Act to stay in Canada, but family court orders prevent their children from leaving the jurisdiction.  Women in this situation face deportation while their children are left with partners who abused them. This hardship is unacceptable, and we work tirelessly to ensure every Mother without Legal Status who comes to us for help is approved to stay in Canada as a Permanent Resident.

While our advocacy efforts alleviate some day-to-day suffering for Mothers without Legal Status, the permanent solution is to change laws so women are no longer ripped away from their children. Our 100% success rate is validating, but it is still no guarantee for these women, who can spend up to three years in limbo. They fear every knock on the door could be Canada Border Services Agency, coming to take them away.

This fear and vulnerability sends many Mothers without Legal Status back to their abusers. Our system renders women dependent on their abusers to secure status in Canada, as it is their abusers who are entering an agreement with the government to have their wives stay in Canada. The abuser controls the sponsorship. He can threaten to withdraw it if she is not compliant, stall document processing or refuse to follow up on requests for more information or documentation.

If we want to end violence against women, we need to prevent a woman’s status in Canada from being tied to her abuser. We need to allow a woman leaving her abusive partner to file her own application, in secret, using the address of a friend, transition house or settlement agency. The applicant should be able to use whatever evidence she has of her abuse, including police or hospital reports, her own statement, information from victim services or other agencies she has sought support from or friends and family who are aware of the abuse. Most importantly, this application must allow her to begin the process of securing financial independence through income assistance and/or employment (and she should not be penalized for her personal path towards economic independence).

This is not a radical idea. This type of program has existed for more than 16 years in the United States and has not created havoc, abuse of the process or increased immigration demands. Creating a similar program here will demonstrate that Canada is serious about ending violence against every person, every day.

Learn more about YWCA programs supporting women leaving abusive relationships.

Contact Us

  • To support YWCA Mothers’ without Legal Status: 604 895 5763 or jrodriguez@ywcavan.org
  • To learn more about our advocacy work: Chantelle Krish, Associate Director of Advocacy and Communications ckrish@ywcavan.org
  • If you are, or know someone who is a mother without legal status in need of individual support, guidance or advocacy: Andrea Vollans, YWCA Legal Educator avollans@ywcavan.org

YWCA Metro Vancouver

ywcavan-logoThe YWCA serves women and families throughout the metropolitan region spanning Burnaby, Surrey, the Tri-cities, Maple Ridge, Langley/Aldergrove, Abbotsford, New Westminster, Richmond and North Vancouver.

Our mission is to touch lives and build better futures for women and their families through advocacy and integrated services that foster economic independence, wellness and equal opportunities.

Our resources on Clicklaw include:mothers-without-status-booklet

Stay informed with YWCA Metro Vancouver:


Introducing Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS)

bwss_logoBy Vicky Law
Lawyer & Legal Advocacy Program Coordinator

For the past 26 years, BWSS has had a Legal Advocacy Program because we know that for women leaving abusive relationships, the complication of dealing with the power and control issues of a violent spouse makes dealing with legal system more difficult. Some women give up and stay with their abuser because it is easier than leaving.

Our Legal Advocacy program has expanded this year. Here is an updated list of the legal services we offer. Click on the yellow icons for more details about each service within the Clicklaw HelpMap.

01_Clicklaw_30px Full representation – Legal Advocacy Program

Approximately 80% of the women who access our services do not have legal representation because they are ineligible for government funded legal aid and cannot afford a private lawyer.

We will take on full representation files based on: the current case load, availability of time, the number of law students volunteering at BWSS, and the complexity of legal issues. BWSS will also consider if the following applies:

  • The woman has been denied by Legal Services Society for legal representation;
  • The woman has appealed the Legal Services Society’s decision of denial and the appeal was unsuccessful;
  • There are multiple barriers that prevent the woman from self-representation, including language, disability, complexity of legal issues, gender orientation, and impact of trauma;
  • The use of the court system by the abuser as way to intimidate or harass or to continue any form of violence;
  • The inability to privately retain a lawyer, such as financial difficulties; and
  • The legal issue is either a family law, child protection or immigration law matter.

Call 604-687-1867 or 604-687-1868 ext. 307 to apply.

01_Clicklaw_30px Legal Advocacy Workshops

Who & What: For women who have or are experiencing violence in their relationships and require legal support with the resulting family law and other legal issues. Lawyers from the community with experience in family law will facilitate all workshops.

When: Every Thursday, April 7, 2016 – June 9, 2016, from 10am – 12pm

Where: at the BWSS office – call 604-687-1867 for location

01_Clicklaw_30pxFamily Law Clinic

BWSS provides summary legal advice clinics in family law every month with volunteer lawyers from the community. These clinics are able to offer necessary summary legal advice to women on a continuous basis while they are unrepresented in the family law system.

We continue our partnership with Access Pro Bono to provide monthly in-house pro bono clinics in family law.

Call 604-687-1867 for the clinic schedule.

01_Clicklaw_30pxCourt Forms Preparation Clinic

We have partnered with Amici Curiae Paralegal Program to provide assistance to unrepresented women with affidavit drafting in family law proceedings – both Provincial and Supreme Court.

When: Third Wednesday of every month, from 5:45-7:45pm

Where: Call 604-687-1868 ext. 307 for location and appointments

Stay informed with BWSS:

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