Wanted: Punjabi fiancée with a Canadian cousin STAFF REPORTER The ads, mostly in Punjabi, are short and snappy. Jat Sikh Canadian immigrant boy 29, 5'3" seeks an Indian educated girl. Only those families should contact who can provide Canadian matrimonial alliance for his 33-year-old Indian resident brother, 5'5". Arranged marriages, where parents introduce young people to each other and couples marry after a brief courtship, are common among South Asians, but "barter" marriages seem to be becoming increasingly common, too. In other words: I'll get your son/daughter to Canada, you help get my niece/nephew out of India. These ads have been around for some time, but never as bold or pervasive as they are now, as people find new ways of bringing relatives over after Citizenship and Immigration Canada plugged legal loopholes and cracked down on fraud in recent years. A cursory look at the dozen or so Punjabi-language weekly newspapers printed in Brampton reveal dozens of such ads every week. "From a moral and ethical perspective, they are destroying our culture," says an angry Baldev Mutta, executive director of Punjabi Community Health Services in Brampton. "Marriages are sacred; they are not meant to be some kind of barter. But that's what we've made them in our quest to bring our relatives (to Canada)." India is the single largest point of origin for immigrants to the GTA. There are nearly a million Indo-Canadians in this country – the majority are from the state of Punjab. There is anecdotal evidence of phony marriages for immigration purposes, followed by divorce, but they have become less common after Ottawa clamped down on the scam. Sometimes, when one door shuts, another opens, says T.S. Brar, a journalist for a Punjabi weekly, as he scans a newspaper page crammed with ads. They are about 50 words each, stacked one upon another, and cost $35 to $60 a week. Brar says a couple of years ago, when he and his family were going to India for his son's wedding, someone approached him and offered a barter marriage. "My son was engaged and I just laughed it off, but later, I fully understood what he meant," Brar says in Punjabi. "It made me really angry. Isn't this yet another form of dowry ..." Barter ads and marriages don't break any laws, but Mutta says they give the community a bad name and provide one more reason marriages break up. "We are using (children) as pawns. They are not getting married because they want to, but because they have to." Such marriages are more likely to unravel, he predicts. "There is intense pressure on the kids," he says. "I can't believe when I see some of these ads – the conditions are ridiculous." The stipulations are clearly spelled out in the ads, but when the Star called a dozen phone numbers – some in Vancouver, but mostly in the GTA – all, except for two refused to give their names or talk. Jaspal Singh, a cab driver in Vancouver, says he was under pressure from his older brother who lives in India, to somehow get his son and daughter to Canada. "I explained it to my brother that it was very tough, but he told me I was making excuses, that I didn't want his children to have a good life." Finally, Singh agreed to place an ad for his own 21-year-old son and 20-year-old daughter in hopes someone, somewhere would reciprocate with Canadian matches for his niece and nephew in India. It is not only a long shot, it is also unethical, Singh admits. He says he has told his kids he will not force them to do something they are not ready for and that weddings would take place only after they have met their prospective partners and are ready. He has paid for the ads to run for four weeks. If things do not fall into place by then, Singh says he has no intention of following up with more ads. "How long can you do it? I will not force them to get married for the sake of it." Singh knows it will put a strain on his relationship with his brother, and is already dreading that conversation. Compared to some things people do to come to Canada, "this is tame and legal," says Brampton's Parminder Dhaliwal on the phone. She placed an ad for her 29-year-old brother. The condition: The potential bride's family needs to find a Canadian citizen or immigrant bride for their 31-year-old brother, who lives in India. Within a week of the ad running in the Toronto and Vancouver editions of a prominent Punjabi weekly, Dhaliwal had fielded more than two dozen calls. Most were a waste of time, she says. One caller, from India, offered $30,000 if a wedding could be fixed between his 38-year-old daughter and Dhaliwal's brother. Another pledged all his land and cattle in Punjab if Dhaliwal's brother married his 19-year-old daughter. He also told Dhaliwal compatibility wasn't really an issue because they would divorce very soon. "We don't want money; we just want our entire family to be here," says Dhaliwal. Activist Manjit Mangat, who has a law office in Brampton, admits the ads sound suspicious, but argues some are sincere efforts at family reunification, even though the method is unconventional. "There is no ulterior motive in some cases. They put up a condition because there is no other way for maybe one member of a family to come to Canada," he says.