By Tom Godfrey
Update: This story has been corrected by Xtra!
A recent demand for same sex sponsorships to come to Canada has led to tougher checks being conducted at embassies abroad.
Canadian diplomats at visa offices abroad must now make sure same sex marriages conducted at the embassies or consulates of other countries are legal before the partners are considered for landed immigration status in Canada.
Couples in some countries where same sex unions are allowed can get married at diplomatic missions where the marriages are recognized, according to immigration officials.
Once hitched, a Canadian citizen can sponsor his partner or both can apply at a nearby Canadian embassy to come here as immigrants, according to immigration officials.
A demand for same-sex sponsorships in 2010 forced officials in Ottawa to review the same sex policy to plug a possible loophole, documents show.
“Marriages performed in embassies or consulates must meet the requirements of the host country in which the mission is located,” said Remo LiFraine, of Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s International Region. “A marriage performed in an embassy or consulate must be legally recognized by the host state.”
LiFraine said those who get married at an embassy “must satisfy an officer that all of the requirements of the host country with respect to marriage have been met.”
Couples choose to get married at the embassy of a foreign country because they don’t feel safe otherwise, immigration officials said.
Canadian embassy staff must now ask if the host country recognizes marriages performed in diplomatic missions in its jurisdiction, LiFraine said in a May 2010 confidential memo obtained through an Access of Information request by lawyer Richard Kurland.
The review surfaced after Canadian visa officers red-flagged for questioning a Colombian doctor, who was selected to work in Newfoundland but only agreed to move if his same-sex partner came with him, documents show.
The men faced queries from immigration officials over marital paperwork obtained in Colombia.
The marriages are recognized in Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, and a number of U.S. states.
The embassies of some European countries have been performing marriages for many years.