Mothers Without Legal Status

Mothers Without Legal Status in Canada Project

Mothers Without Legal Status (MWLS) are women who have left abusive relationships and find themselves without legal status after their ex-partners cancel their sponsorships for permanent residence.

What it means to be a mother without status

Without legal status, a mother and her children have nothing to live on. Before we began our advocacy work on the Mothers Without Legal Status project, mothers without legal status could not:

  • Work
  • Collect income assistance
  • Apply for BC Housing
  • Enroll her child(ren) to school without paying international fees   

Many mothers accessing YWCA programs and services became trapped in abusive relationships or were forced to work illegally to provide for their children. The only alternative for mothers without status was to leave the country and their children behind.

About the Mothers Without Legal Status project

We launched the MWLS project in the early 2000s, with a focus on supporting individual mothers without legal status with housing, services and legal aid while advocating for change at the provincial and national levels.

In 2011, the Government of BC announced that mothers without legal status in British Columbia could access income assistance. These mothers are also now able to access safe, affordable housing through BC Housing while they wait for their permanent residency applications to be processed, and their children can now attend school without being expected to pay international student fees.

Our current focus is to continue to advocate for changes at the provincial level and at the federal level that fast-track the applications for Permanent Resident Status on Humanitarian and Compassionate grounds for women without status.

How you can help

Despite our work, women continue to fall through the cracks, especially women whose children are not Canadian citizens or women who do not apply for permanent residence because they are trying to return to their country of origin with their children. 


Mothers Without Legal Status in Canada - Information for Service Providers (PDF)

Mothers Without Legal Status in Canada - Research Report (PDF)