What do immigrants and refugees need to know about domestic abuse?

Ontario criminal law and family law protect you against domestic abuse. If you are a permanent resident, you will not lose your status for reporting abuse or leaving an abusive relationship.

Domestic abuse happens to people from all races, religions, sexual orientations, income levels and education levels.

However, if you are an immigrant or refugee, you may have situations that make you vulnerable to abuse. For example, you might:

  • Not know about Canadian laws and women's rights
  • Not speak English or French well
  • Be isolated from others
  • Fear bringing shame to your family
  • Fear losing your children
  • Fear losing your immigration status
  • Not know about social service agencies that can help you

Domestic abuse is a crime in Canada. It is against the law.

Domestic Abuse and Immigration Status

If You Were Sponsored

If you are a permanent resident (PR):

  • You will not lose your permanent resident status
  • You will not be deported

for reporting that your sponsor abuses you or for leaving an abusive relationship with your sponsor.

If You Are Not a Permanent Resident

If you do not have permanent resident status - for example, if you are a refugee claimant or live-in caregiver - you might have more difficulty.

In this situation, you may be able to apply for permanent resident status on humanitarian and compassionate ("H & C") grounds. You should contact a lawyer or community legal clinic for advice.

Find more information about humanitarian and compassionate applications on the Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada website. You can also call the IRCC Call Centre for more information.

Your Children

You will not lose rights to your children for reporting abuse or leaving an abusive marriage or relationship.

Where can I get help for domestic abuse?

For More Information

  • Abuse is Wrong in Any Language - General information on Canadian law, women's rights and the kind of help you can get if they are being abused. It has information about issues of citizenship, sponsorship, deportation and threats of taking children out of the country. You can get it in many languages. From Justice Canada.
  • All Women. One Family Law. - This website has information about family law in Ontario. The website is in many languages. From Family Law Education for Women (FLEW).
  • Family Violence When a Woman is Sponsored by a Spouse or Partner - This resource explains what sponsored women experiencing domestic violence need to know about immigration law. From CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario).
  • You and Your Baby... Abuse and Pregnancy - Abuse usually gets worse over time. It will not stop when your baby is born. This tipsheet has information about abuse during pregnancy. You can get it in many languages. From the Best Start Resource Centre.
  • Peace Bonds & Restraining Orders - This guide explains the criteria for getting a peace bond or a restraining order and the differences between them. From Public Legal Education and Information Service of New Brunswick (PLEIS-NB).
  • Family Court Support Worker Program - Provides direct support to victims of domestic violence who are involved in the family court process.
  • Women Living with HIV and Intimate Partner Violence - This guide is for women, including trans women, who are living with HIV and who experience violence from their intimate partner. From the HIV & Aids Legal Clinic Ontario (HALCO).
Last updated: July 13, 2016 4001342