A Windsor, Ont., man abused his wife’s precarious immigration status by continuously using the threat of deportation to pressure her to perform sex acts she would not otherwise have consented to, a judge ruled Friday.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Paul Howard said that while he believed the man wielded this power on multiple occasions during the couple’s nine-week marriage, he could not conclusively say how many times it happened.
In a decision delivered late in the day, Howard said there was only enough evidence to convict the man, who cannot be identified to protect his wife’s identity, on one count each of extortion and sexual assault.
He was found not guilty on five other charges — one of assault and two each of sexual assault and extortion — that related to specific dates in their relationship, including the events that led to his arrest on July 30, 2015.
“There is no doubt that by making these threats (he) intended to obtain sexual favours from his wife,” Howard said in his ruling.
“(He) induced the complainant by abusing a position of trust and power … not because he was married to the complainant, but because of the particular context of her immigration circumstances.”
Court heard the couple first came in contact on an online dating site in the spring of 2015, had sex on their first date and married within weeks of meeting in person.
The woman testified she had arrived in Canada from Nigeria two years earlier and sought asylum but her claim was rejected, as were the appeals that followed.
She said the man told her on their first date that marrying a Canadian would help her stay in the country, and shortly after their wedding, he offered to apply to sponsor her.
Both she and her husband told the court they had been looking to settle down and start a family, and were attracted to each other’s online dating profiles because they showed similar goals.
The woman said during trial that while the man was initially respectful of her wishes, his behaviour changed dramatically once they were married: he began to demand sex up to four times a day, even when she told him she was too tired.
She also said he required that she perform oral sex, an act that she considered a sin and had told him she did not want to engage in.
If she refused, she said he threatened to withdraw his sponsorship application — a threat he carried out repeatedly, court heard.
The law firm handling the application told the court the man cancelled, then reinstated, the application at least 10 times during their short-lived marriage — so much that the firm ended up dropping the contract.
The man, meanwhile, said his recurring about-face stemmed from concerns about committing to a relative stranger and about the rising costs of immigration proceedings.
He also denied coercing his wife into any sexual acts and said he had called the police multiple times — including the day of his arrest — because of her aggressive or disruptive actions.
The defence suggested the woman had married him purely to remain in Canada and fabricated the allegations to extend her stay.
But Howard said he did not believe the man’s account, pointing to numerous inconsistencies and what he called the man’s “careless indifference” to the accuracy of his testimony.
Someone preoccupied with mounting legal fees would not call his lawyers more often, the judge said, and someone fearing commitment wouldn’t reactivate the application.
Howard further noted the man’s testimony indicated he “views marriage as based on some form of barter model,” noting the man acknowledged he threatened to withdraw sponsorship when his wife refused to take out the garbage and recycling.
The man also testified his wife’s objection to performing sexual acts was a “small part” of why he cancelled the application, the judge said.
The man was arrested on July 30, 2015, after he called police from his car while pulled over on Highway 401, court heard.
He sought to report that his wife was throwing things at him from the back seat but when police arrived, she was distraught and repeatedly tried to run into traffic, court heard. The officers who responded to the call testified that she urged them to kill her.
When police led her to their cruiser alone, she told them her husband had been sexually assaulting her, court heard.
The man continues to be free on bail pending his sentencing, which will take place at a date that has yet to be set.
The woman was granted temporary residency as a witness of the Crown.
Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press