Academic journal article Refuge

Living with Precarious Legal Status in Canada: Implications for the Well-Being of Children and Families

Academic journal article Refuge

Living with Precarious Legal Status in Canada: Implications for the Well-Being of Children and Families

Article excerpt


This study focused on the effects of precarious status on the well-being of fifteen participants with particular attention to their attempts to claim services, their feelings of belonging and sense of social support, and the effects of parents' status on children. It investigates ways in which the status of one family member can affect the well-being of the entire family. Those who had children reported that the family's status disadvantaged their children, whether they were Canadian or foreign-born, as parents' status was used to justify denying children rights to which they are entitled by international, national, and provincial laws. The paper challenges approaches to citizenship and immigration status that fail to consider the implications of legal status for a person's primary social units and networks.


Cette etude examine les consequences du statut precaire sur le bien-etre de 15 participants, en se penchant tout particulierement sur leurs efforts pour revendiquer l'acces aux services, leurs sentiments d'appartenance et de soutien social, ainsi que les repercussions du statut des parents sur leurs enfants. Elle examine les differentes facons par lesquelles le statut d'un membre de la famille peut affecter le bien-etre de la famille toute entiere. Ceux ayant des enfants ont rapporte que ces derniers, qu'ils soient nes au Canada ou a l'etranger, avaient ete defavorises par le statut de la famille, etant donne que le statut des parents etait employe pour justifier le deni aux enfants de droits qui etaient les leurs en droit international et selon les lois nationales et provinciales. L'article remet en question les facons d'aborder la question de statut de citoyennete et d'immigrant qui ne prennent pas en ligne de compte les consequences du statut juridique sur les unit& sociales de base et les reeaux sociaux pour chaque personne.

Canadian citizens, secure in their full legal status, often take for granted many of the rights and entitlements that citizenship bestows on them. However, for other members of the population including, for example, non-citizen or not-yet-citizen refugees and immigrants, the question of status and thus of rights and entitlements is much less certain. (1) In some cases, even citizens may encounter difficulty in accessing and obtaining services and protections to which they are entitled by virtue of their citizenship. This latter situation is not uncommon, for example, among Canadian-born children whose parents have uncertain legal status. Although recognized as citizens by birth, they may face barriers in accessing education and other entitlements. Drawing on qualitative data from fifteen interviews, this paper looks at the experience of precarious legal status for families and children in Canada. (2) In particular, it investigates various ways in which the uncertain legal status of one or more family members can affect the well-being of the family as a whole, including Canadian citizens. Our approach challenges perspectives on citizenship and legal status that privilege the status of individuals in their definitions, and which fail to consider the implications of status for a person's primary social units and networks.

Key Concepts: Status and Well-Being

Berinstein, McDonald, Nyers, Wright, and Zeheri and the Status Campaign used the term "non-status" to refer generally to individuals who do not have the required permissions or documents that would establish their legal and undeniable right to live and work in Canada on a temporary or permanent basis. (3) However, we use the term "uncertain status" and also follow Goldring, Berinstein, and Bernhard's use of "precarious status" in order to stress that the question of one's legal position in the country--and hence the question of one's rights, entitlements, access to services, obligations, responsibilities, and so on--cannot always be determined as a strictly black-and-white matter. …

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