Academic journal article Refuge

Temporariness, Rights, and Citizenship: The Latest Chapter in Canada's Exclusionary Migration and Refugee History

Academic journal article Refuge

Temporariness, Rights, and Citizenship: The Latest Chapter in Canada's Exclusionary Migration and Refugee History

Article excerpt


Immigration has been recognized as a cornerstone of nation building in Canada since Confederation in 1867. The chapter of Canadian immigration history discussed in this article begins during the post-Confederation settler era but is focused on the changes to immigration and refugee determination policies made since 2012. Historically, rights and entitlements to membership in the Canadian state were premised on territorial presence and the granting of permanent status. Contemporary membership in Canada's sociopolitical community is the ascription of permanent resident status and/or citizenship by the state. Incorporation into the nation remains more subjective. Nation refers generally to a sentiment of solidarity based on cultural similarity, but more importantly mutual recognition. (1) Canadian nationality incorporates both of these elements and assigns an individual a place in the community and a say in the effective control of the state.

Canada, as an entity, can exercise sovereignty or control over its territory to some extent, epitomized by its immigration and refugee determination policies that are designed to reflect Canada's interests. By attaching specific rules and codes to each entry category, Canada effectively creates a hierarchy of rights to stay, access to the labour market, and entitlements to state membership for all non-citizens. Much like designating citizenship, designating "illegality" assigns an individual a political and juridical identity, as well as a specific social relation to the state. States perceive unwanted and/or illegal migration as an affront to national sovereignty. The "illegalization" and "criminalization" of some migrations, therefore, is intricately connected to a perceived "loss of control" by the government. (2)

Canada has responded to the wake of perceived threats to national security, heightened in the post-9/11 era, concerns over the perceived diminishment of control over its borders, and a dilution of national identity, by expanding its "security perimeter"--an ever-growing and ever-present discursive security blanket with a vague functional definition. (3) Despite the active expansion of this blanket, Canada continues to accept what it considers to be unwanted immigration of persons it does not actively solicit.

Gary Freeman explains this passive acceptance of unwanted immigration by disaggregating migration policy into four distinct policy arenas: (1) managing legal migration through migration planning and selecting migrants to meet specific nationally prescribed immigration objectives; (2) controlling illegal migration by implementing border controls, employer sanctions, and visa requirements; (3) administering temporary worker programs; and (4) refugee determination and processing of what the state considers to be genuine asylum claims. This disaggregation of migration policy suggests that sweeping assessments of state control over its borders, even within the contemporary securitization era, must be replaced with more limited and specific claims. (4)

Historically, Canada has always passively accepted unwanted immigration, particularly for humanitarian reasons, following the ratification of internationally legislated refugee protocols. Over time, it has also had to recognize individual rights, specifically for family reunification of labour migrants, invoked in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the pragmatic challenges of controlling "illegal" migration. (5) As a post-9/11 securitized state, Canada has made concerted efforts to ensure that immigration and refugee determination, in tandem with citizenship laws, are associated with the essence of the nation, effectively transforming migration and refugee laws into the "last bastion of sovereignty." (6)

This article examines how Canada maximizes its limited sovereignty in administering migration and refugee claims, evident in the changes to the temporary worker programs and the processing of in-land asylum claims made since 2012. …

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