Marriages of convenience - fraudulent marriages arranged to bring a foreign national to Canada are a continuing concern. CBC Article here.
Why should people care about this issue?
Well, for one, the integrity of our immigration system is at stake. The other reason is that a surfeit of fraudulent marriages means that immigration will respond by tightening requirements, which might mean that legitimate marriages will be lumped in with the fraudulent.
When a marriage is denied, the couple have the option to appeal the refusal to the Immigration Appeal Division. In my experience, the Immigration Appeal Division allows the majority of such appeals. That means that legitimate couples were forced to go through several years and pay thousands of dollars in travel and legal fees to prove their real marriage were in fact real.
There's no easy answer or solution. Some might suggest increasing funding and investigations. At the end of the day, we may realize that our approach is wrong. I would suggest that the sponsorship be straightforward, but that a provisional visa be provided to anyone being sponsored in this manner. The provisional visa would allow them to enter and reside here, and start their life in Canada. The couple can then provide additional documents proving they are cohabiting, have had children, etc. that would allow the provisional visa to be converted to permanent residency. I know that this is not a perfect solution. Such a scenario could allow for abuse by the sponsoring spouse.
In addition to a provisional visa, there should be restrictions on who a sponsored person can sponsor. Some of the motivation for immigrating to Canada under this basis is the speed, and the ability to sponsor family members. Perhaps sponsored individuals should not be able to sponsor family members of their own for a period of time (3 years). This would lower the incentive for using marriage to enter Canada in the first place.
There's too much at stake to allow the continued abuse of our immigration system, but I would like a solution that punishes those that misuse the system, while at the same time, allows reunification of genuine couples in Canada in an efficient system.