Judge restores Canadian citizenship of a Chinese woman who used fraudulent marriage to flee homophobic parents

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Cecille Xu wanted to make Canada her new home and was convinced it was the only way to save her first same-sex relationship in the face of homophobic parents in China.

Xu said in court that “It was a truly devastating feeling to know that your own family hates you. For who you choose to love.”

Xu became a Canadian citizen and started a promising career in finance. The issue was the way she built her new life.

Federal officials discovered Xu had paid a man $5,000 to marry her for immigration purposes — then divorced him two years later — and took the rare step in 2020 of revoking her citizenship.

The Federal Court judge, Justice John Norris, in the dramatic case has given Xu another chance. Justice Norris overturned the revocation last week, saying an Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada officer failed to consider the life Xu had had made here for almost two decades and the fact the citizenship decision would leave her stateless.

“No consideration was given to the mitigating circumstances … and whether they reduced her blameworthiness,” wrote Norris. “This falls well short of what is required in the circumstances of this case for the decision to be reasonable.”

The judge referred the issue back to a different Immigration officer for a new ruling.

Xu nor lawyers for either side could be reached for comment on this decision.

I loved Terry more than I have ever loved anyone

Legalities aside, the case provides insights on the challenges facing the half-million international students who study in Canada, as well as discrimination against the LGBTQ community in China and a mini-industry of fraudulent marriages here.

Xu was involved in Canada Border Services Agency investigation called Project Honeymoon , which targeted an individual allegedly profiting from arranging sham marriages between Chinese people and Canadian citizens.

Xu expressed deep regret for getting married for convenience, the ruling said, and pleaded for a second chance.

Xu’s actually moved to Canada in 2000, when she arrived to study at the University of Toronto, sent here by her parents at age 18 after she had failed a Chinese university entrance exam.

According to the Canadian Bureau of International Education, the number of international students at Canadian schools has doubled between 2010 and 2020 with over 530,000 enrolled last year. China supplies 22 per cent of those students, exceeded only by India’s 34 per cent.

Xu’s explains that being an international student is daunting and she struggled both academically and emotionally.

“I suddenly went from my little sheltered life as a high school student living with my parents in China to fending for myself as an adult,” she said. “My first few years in Canada were filled with hardship. I had never felt more alone in my life.”

Xu’s experience in Canada changed when she met the Chinese woman identified in the ruling as TDL and fell in love, a first same-sex romance for both. “I loved Terry more than I have ever loved anyone,” Xu said in the affidavit.

Both of their parents reacted furiously when the couple revealed their relationship, in which, TDL’s parents threatened to kill her and Xu’s to break her leg and lock her up.

The parents attitudes and views are common in China, with evidence indicating that gay people “suffer significant levels of discrimination and intra-familial violence,” said Norris.

“My first few years in Canada were filled with hardship”

In July, the popular Chinese social-media platform “WeChat” removed dozens of LGBTQ accounts.

Xu hired an immigration consultant who had apparently been involved with a marriage-fraud ringleader targeted by Project Honeymoon, said the judge. The immigration consultant told her she had to find a Canadian to marry and would arrange the paperwork for $2,500. She did so, offering a man identified as GLJ $5,000 in three instalments to become her husband and sponsor her as a permanent resident.

She gained status in 2006, got divorced GLJ in 2007, and became Canadian in 2009. That meant giving up her Chinese nationality, as Beijing does not allow dual citizenship.

Unfortunately, Xu’s her real relationship with TDL did not last. Pressured by her parents, TDL returned to China in 2009 and Xu has heard she is now married with a child. Xu was so disheartened she tried to take her own life, said the ruling.

“I continue to be unsure about my sexuality,” she said in her affidavit. “My culture and my background have their claws buried deep inside of me, make me ashamed of who I am.”

But Xu “slowly rebuilt her life” after these series of events and completed an economics degree at York University. She’s now a futures trader at a Toronto firm, “owns a home and dog” and is deeply involved in the community, said Norris.

The judge said the loss of citizenship is extremely serious — especially for those rendered stateless as a result — and the Citizenship Act requires officials to seriously consider mitigating circumstances before revocation.

This article was originally sourced by National Post.