Foreign-born women who plan to be married in Canada,
whether as mail-order brides or through an arranged marriage or matchmaking
service, may soon have a new online resource to help them figure out their
rights under Canadian law.
The website, www.lawforforeignbrides.ca, is a joint effort between the
University of Alberta's faculty of extension, the Legal Resource Centre, the
Alberta Law Foundation and the Changing Together organization.
The site covers a gamut of topics ranging from issues to consider before
marriage, the immigration process, living in Canada, child-rearinag
challenges, Canadian law and topics concerning marital breakdown - all in
The idea for the website was conceived and developed by Changing Together, a
non-profit agency that helps immigrant women.
"We saw the need for legal information based on our experiences in helping
the foreign brides in the past few years," said San San Sy, who served as
chair for Changing Together during the website's initial development.
"Three years ago, we experienced an increase in foreign brides coming to
Changing Together for assistance."
Besides overseas relationships and traditional arranged-marriage practices,
Sy said that many foreign brides coming to Canada also meet their future
spouses online via chat rooms and Internet matchmaking agencies.
"We came up with the idea of using the web as the venue to develop and
present legal information from the perspective of the foreign brides, as
there are brides who met their spouses [online]," Sy said.
Changing Together also held focus groups and interviews with foreign brides
and other agencies to develop the site's content from a foreign bride's
The Alberta Law Foundation provided a grant for website development and
content was then developed by the Legal Resource Centre, a public legal
education program that is supported by the University of Alberta's faculty
"One of the goals of the legal studies unit in the faculty of extension is
to give people in the community access to legal information, including
immigrants and marginalized groups," said Katy Campbell, the interim dean of
the faculty of extension.
Campbell said that the website is also a means for the faculty, in
association with the Legal Resource Centre, to launch community partnerships
in the areas of research and social action.
"The programs and projects of the Legal Resource Centre focus on creating
accessible, plain-language information about the law for the public. Our
role was to design and create the website and check the content for legal
accuracy," said Diane Rhyason, the Legal Resource Centre's executive
For now, the goal of the website is to provide legal information in plain
English. It is still unclear whether the website will be translated in other
languages due to the complicated nature of translating law and the costs
associated with such a task.
"We know that to have Canadian law written in different languages is more
than just translation. Translation without context is very misleading," Sy
said, citing recent statistics that 80 percent of immigrants have some form
of English-language capabilities.
"Our experience also indicates that many women tend to turn to other women
for help in solving problems and [other] issues."
Law for Foreign Brides does not, however, take the place of a lawyer. A site
disclaimer notes that all information is accurate as of November 2007, but
"if you need legal advice, please contact a lawyer."