A Sikh woman who says she was forced into a sham marriage with her boss’s relative, upon threat of being fired from her job as a hairdresser if she didn’t comply, has won an annulment in B.C. Supreme Court.
Justice Gordon Weatherill presided over the case, Kaur v. Jhamb, in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster.
He outlined the “uncontroverted evidence” that was presented in court in his reasons for decision, published Monday, Jan. 21.
The court heard the claimant, Pardeep Kaur, began working on Aug. 1, 2018 as a full-time hairdresser with a company identified only as BPL, owned and operated by a man identified only as B.S.S.
Her boss, B.S.S., suggested she marry his relative, identified as respondent Harpreet Singh Jhamb, who was living in India and whom B.S.S. subsequently sponsored to immigrate to Canada as a permanent resident.
Weatherill noted that B.S.S. “told the claimant that her employment with the company would be secure only if she accepted this suggestion” and that Kaur had asked him for a day to think about it, “as she was neither willing nor ready for marriage.
“The following day,” the judge said, “the claimant agreed to marry the respondent under duress, as she did not want to lose her job.”
Eighteen days later, Kaur and Jhamb were married in a civil ceremony attended by some of B.S.S.’s friends and family.
“Immediately after the ceremony, the claimant went home alone,” Weatherill noted. “She has not seen the respondent since. The marriage was not consummated.”
The court heard the parties involved are Sikh and Punjabi. According to their religion, beside a civil wedding there must also be a religious one before their holy book, Shri Guru Granth Sahib, prior to cohabitation and/or consummation of the union, but in this case no such ceremony took place.
Kaur was fired from her job shortly after the civil ceremony, Weatherill said.
“She believes she was fired because she did not go through with the religious ceremony.”
The judge said he had “overwhelming evidence” before him that the civil marriage ceremony was “a sham and was entered into solely for immigration purposes.
“I am satisfied that the claimant did not enter into the agreement to participate in this sham of her own free will but did so because of the threat of losing her job,” Weatherill decided. “I find that she was coerced into marrying the respondent and participated in the civil ceremony under duress.”