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13 June 2011

Landmark Supreme Court Ruling Regarding Sponsorship Debts

A landmark ruling handed down by the Supreme Court of Canada delineates the financial responsibility of Canadians to family members they sponsor to Canada. When sponsoring relatives to immigrate, Canadians are required to support them financially and repay their debts, including welfare for 3-10 years.

The Supreme Court judgment states that while sponsors cannot default on debts owed to the government as a result of family members going on social assistance, they can delay paying. Therefore, the essential condition that the sponsor is responsible for the needs of the immigrant rather than the government remains; however, the Court allows for limited discretion by officials to delay collection of debts.

“Excessively harsh treatment of defaulting sponsors may risk discouraging others from bringing their relatives  to Canada, which would undermine the policy of promoting family reunifications.”

An important implication of the decision is that prior to collecting any debts, the government must give individuals an opportunity to explain any circumstances which may have left them unable to honor their responsibility.

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