According to the classic love story – Boy meets girl, they fall in love, get married and then they live happily ever after in the land of opportunity – Right? Not in Hilwea Sleiman’s case. According to a recent article on CBC News, Hilwea (24) was duped into marriage under false pretenses and then left to face a harsh reckoning not too soon after.
Originally from Calgary, Hilwea met her match at a family wedding taking place in Lebanon in the year 2011 and instantly took to the enigmatic Omar Hendous. In the years that passed, the relationship unfolded and the two eventually decided to get married in 2014.
Returning to Lebanon, Hilwea and Omar performed the first part of the traditional marriage ceremony called Nikah Al-Kitab which bound the two together legally and religiously. The second part was to be consummated when the two arrived in Calgary, but this did not happen.
Three days after their arrival in Canada, Hilwea was hit with a “funny feeling,” when Omar refused to unpack his bags and headed off to Edmonton to visit his brother. “I was hoping I was wrong… That he wasn’t just here to be in the land of opportunity,” she told CBC News. Shortly after that, Omar returned to fetch his suitcases and look for permanent work in Edmonton – this was when she knew she’d been had.
“I was one of the girls that used to say, ‘Oh my God, I am never going to marry anyone from back home because they all want my green card, right?’ That’s every girl you might talk to, is going to say that. “And then I don’t know what changed my mind. I trusted him — I trusted him a lot. He seemed different,” She reported.
Hilwea now seeks an annulment of their marriage as an act of justice. “I’m hoping if he gets deported back, he would be an example for every guy or girl back home who thinks of doing this.” But according to federal government and law, there is a two-year conditional period which stipulates that a couple must live together for two years or the sponsored spouse’s status could be revoked.
Hilwea also took to consulting Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) who rely on such complaints and received a file number in March 2015. There was no further activity since.
The Other Perspective
Omar denies all allegations made against him saying that Hilwea was the one who changed her mind after he arrived in January 2015. “There was a legitimate marriage between them and … he’s trying to work things out with her,” said Omar’s lawyer, Eric Shawar. “What I think is going on here, is that she is just trying to escape her responsibilities as a sponsor,” he continued.
Omar’s lawyer has already filed a statement of defense in response to the deportation charges Hilwea produced. “We are saying the marriage did exist, they consummated the marriage, but obviously she is doing this to get [him] out of Canada,” says the lawyer.
Hilwea is however adamant to make an example of her case in hopes of encouraging others to speak out about the dangers of falling in love with someone from back home and warn them against being victims.
The Hill Times reported that Minister McCallum “acknowledged that marriage of convenience or marriage fraud is an important issue that must be dealt with, but said sponsored spouses should not be made to wait for two years to become permanent residents.”
Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney further explains;
There are countless cases of marriage fraud across the country… I have consulted widely with Canadians, and especially with victims of marriage fraud, who have told me clearly that we must take action to stop this abuse of our immigration system. Sometimes the sponsor in Canada is being duped and sometimes it’s a commercial transaction. Implementing a two-year conditional permanent residence period will help deter marriage fraud, prevent the callous victimization of innocent Canadians and help us put an end to these scams.”