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Abuse and Violence


Information For Immigrant Women

  • Does he hit you?
  • Does he say you are useless or stupid?
  • Does he always make you stay in the house?
  • Does the way he treats you make you feel unhappy or nervous?

These are signs of woman abuse
You Should Know...

  • You can get away from the abuse.
  • The law and the police can help you.
  • Your rights may be affected by your immigration status.
  • There is help!

What is Woman Abuse?

Woman abuse happens when your husband or boyfriend mistreats you. It takes many forms.

  • Physical abuse -hitting, pinching, slapping, pushing, punching, kicking, burning, stabbing or shooting you. It may also include threats to cause you harm.
  • Sexual abuse - unwanted or forced sexual touching or activity.
  • Psychological or emotional abuse - insulting you, threatening to take your children or have you deported, damaging your belongings, and controlling what you do and who you see.
  • Financial abuse - control over all the money.

When is woman abuse against the law?

When your husband physically or sexually harms you or the children, it is against the law in Canada. Threatening to do so may also be an offence. Your husband cannot do whatever he wants just because he is in the privacy of his home.
Here Are Some Things You Should Know About Woman Abuse:

  • You are NOT to blame
    He may be angry or under stress but these are not excuses for violence. It is not your fault.
  • You are NOT the only one
    Canadian born, immigrant, and refugee women share this problem. It happens to many women of all ages, religions, cultural backgrounds and incomes.
  • He has NO right to hurt you
    Although people may tell you that it is your duty to obey your husband and stay with him, all forms of woman abuse are wrong.
  • It usually will NOT get better
    Men who are violent usually do not change. The abuse may get worse over time.
  • There IS help
    Do not be ashamed or embarrassed to ask for help.

Getting Help

Who can help me?

For Legal Problems:

  • lawyers
  • family court

For Emotional Support:

  • immigrant women's groups
  • friends, family, church
  • transition house
  • family counsellors

In a Crisis:

  • hospitals
  • police (dial 911)
  • transition houses

How can the police help?

The police can help stop physical or sexual abuse. They are there to serve and protect you. They can help you deal with violence in the home. They will take your problem seriously.

What can the police do if I call them?

  • they can talk to your husband
  • they may lay charges of "assault" against your husband
  • if the assault is serious, they may arrest your husband
  • they can help you find some place safe to go

Will he be deported if he is found guilty of assault?

If your husband is a Canadian citizen he cannot be deported. For other classes of people in Canada, including permanent residents and refugees, deportation could result from an assault conviction. However, each case is dealt with on an individual basis and generally, permanent residents would only be deported for very serious crimes.

Deciding to Leave

Can I leave my husband?

Yes. You have the right to leave. You will not lose your right to apply for legal custody of the children or financial support. You can leave for a short time, or for good. You may decide to separate or to divorce your husband.

What are my rights if I leave him?

If you leave, you have the right to ask the court to give you

  • financial support from your husband
  • custody of your children
  • the right to stay in your own home
  • half of the marital property

He says he will keep the children - what can I do?

You should apply for legal custody of the children immediately. Leaving him will not stop you from getting custody of your children. He will not get the children just because he has more money. The court will decide what is in the best interest of the children.

Should I get help from a lawyer?

Yes. Family law can be complicated. You should contact a lawyer. Legal assistance for certain family law matters is available free of charge from the domestic legal aid program. This program helps victims of physical, sexual, emotional or financial abuse by a spouse - but only with their family law problems. You can contact the domestic legal aid lawyer at the Family Division of the Court of Queen's Bench.

Leaving Abuse

Is there a place for me to go?

Yes. You can go to a transition house (sometimes called a "shelter"). This is a safe place where abused women and their children can stay free of charge for up to one month. You will have a place to sleep and eat while you decide what to do.
Call the Transition House nearest you:





Gignoo (Fredericton)



Saint John

Serenity House (Kent County)



St. Stephen


How will they help me?

The staff and volunteers at the transition house will offer you counseling and support. They will tell you about your choices. They can help you with clothing, diapers and toys for a short time. They can also help find someone who speaks your language.

Will the transition house tell my husband or boyfriend if I call or go there?

No. They will not tell anybody what you tell them. You can even call just to ask for advice. They do not need to know your name.

After You Leave

Will I be deported if I leave my husband or boyfriend?

No. If you are a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, you would not be deported for leaving your husband.

What if I am a sponsored immigrant?

If you are a permanent resident or Canadian citizen, you will not be deported for leaving you husband, even if you are still sponsored. The law does not want you to stay in an abusive situation.
However, if you are not yet a permanent resident and your sponsor decides to withdraw his sponsorship before your application is approved, there may be a risk. You should talk to a lawyer.

What if I need money to live?

If you need money to live, you may be able to get income assistance (sometimes called welfare). If you meet the requirements of the Department of Human Resources, your application will not be treated any differently because you are an immigrant.

If you are a sponsored immigrant, even if you are now a Canadian citizen, your sponsor cannot just decide to stop sponsoring you. Your sponsor signed an agreement with the government to make sure you have food, clothing, housing, and medical care. If your sponsorship breaks down, the Department of Human Resources may be able to help you. However, they will take legal steps to make sure your sponsor lives up to the sponsorship agreement.

If you signed an agreement with the government before you came to Canada, saying that you would not apply for welfare, then you will not be eligible to apply. You will have to find a way to support yourself, but you will not be deported.

What if he keeps bothering me after I leave?

Here are some legal actions that might apply (see glossary).

  • Peace Bond
  • Criminal charges of harassment
  • Assault charges
  • No Contact order

Deciding to Stay

What if I decide to stay and try to help him change?

Your husband may be able to get help through family counselling.
It is up to him to change. He must admit that:

  • he has a problem
  • it is wrong to mistreat you
  • he wants help

I know he will not change but I want to stay anyway.

Only you can make that decision. You should know that:

  • Children are always affected: Their school work often suffers and they may grow up anxious and confused. Children who see their mother being abused often grow up to be abusive or a victim of abuse.
  • Child protection officials have a legal duty to make sure children are safe. Children living in a violent home may be taken to safety, even if they are not abused.

Where Can I Get More Information?

  • immigrant serving agencies
  • multicultural organizations
  • immigrant women's organizations
  • hospitals
  • public health nurse
  • support groups
  • transition houses
  • police/RCMP
  • family counsellors
  • immigration officers
  • domestic legal aid
  • public legal education

Glossary of Terms

Assault: it is against the law to intentionally use force against somebody without his or her consent. Trying to use force or threatening to use force may also be assaults. Sexual assault is any kind of assault that involves sexual activity. The offence created depends on how much force was used.

Criminal charges of Harassment (stalking): it is against the law to constantly follow you, bother you, spy on you, or to make harassing phone calls to you at work or at home.

Domestic Legal Aid: is a program which helps people who need a lawyer but cannot afford one. It is available to victims of woman abuse in family law matters such as separation, child custody, and division of marital property.

Income Assistance (Welfare): is a program that can help you when you need money to live.

Marital Property: is the house, money, furniture, car, etc. that you and your husband had when you were married.

No Contact Order: If your husband is charged or convicted of a crime, a judge can order him to stay away from you as a condition of his release, probation, or parole.

Peace Bond: is an agreement your husband would make with the court to keep the peace and be of good behaviour. It could require him not to see, phone, or write to you. If he breaks the conditions you can call the police and they will arrest him, and he would have a criminal record.

Permanent Resident (or "landed immigrant"): is a person who has been permitted to come to Canada to live here permanently. They have a right to remain here provided they have not lost their status.

Sponsorship: is a promise by a Canadian citizen or an institution (like a church) to support a new immigrant financially for up to 10 years. The sponsor must make sure you have food, clothing, housing, and medical care.

Public Legal Education and Information Service of New Brunswick (PLEIS-NB) is a non-profit organization. Its goal is to provide New Brunswickers with information on the law. PLEIS-NB receives funding and in-kind support from the Department of Justice Canada, the New Brunswick Law Foundation and the Office of the Attorney General of New Brunswick.

We gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of Women Working With Immigrant Women of New Brunswick as well as the comments and insight provided by the many immigrant women who were consulted in the production and development of this pamphlet. We also wish to thank members of the Law Society of New Brunswick and the Public Prosecutions Branch of the Department of Justice.

This pamphlet does not contain a complete statement of the law in this area and changes in the law may occur from time to time. Anyone needing specific advice on his or her own legal position should consult a lawyer.

Published by:
Public Legal Education and
Information Service of New Brunswick
P.O. Box 6000
Fredericton, NB
E3B 5H1
Tel: (506) 453-5369
Fax: (506) 462-5193

March 2000

ISBN: 1-55137-442-0



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Disclaimer: Please note that our website contains general information about the law. This is not a complete statement of the law on particular topics. We try to update our publications often, but laws change frequently so it is important for you to check to make sure the information is up to date.  The information in our publications is not a substitute for legal advice. To receive legal advice about your specific situation, you need to speak to a lawyer.