Academic journal article Refuge

Gendered Perspectives on Refugee Determination in Canada

Academic journal article Refuge

Gendered Perspectives on Refugee Determination in Canada

Article excerpt

Introduction

Refugee determination has become an increasingly debated and contested process in Canada within the last few years, culminating with the implementation in December 2012 of Bill C-31, Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act. Questions have circulated over who is a "genuine" refugee, who is not, who is a "bogus" claimant, and how that determination should be reached. New procedures are supposed to offer a progression towards answering these questions, yet many refugee advocates have significant doubts.

One aspect of the old system that has been maintained within the implementation of the new one is the oral hearing. As a result of the 1985 Supreme Court Singh decision, all refugee claimants should have access to a full oral hearing to explain their claim, and adjudicators should assess their case on the basis of knowledge of conditions in the country of origin, as well as a recognition of the claimant's subjective fear of persecution. Within this hearing process, it has been argued that claimants must "produce a successful refugee image" (1) in the recounting of their experience of persecution, an image that is based on intersecting essentialized ideas of gender, race, sexuality, and ability, among others. The Western-centric preconceived ideas about the racialized and orientalized ways refugee claimants should perform their gender and their fear within their narratives of persecution can have significant impacts on the adjudication of their claim. While the new determination process has been implemented, this article will focus on adjudication prior to December 2012, since little research is available on the impact of the changes. However, it will be argued that the findings can have implications for the new processes and subsequent related research.

Looking at the identity categories constructed to frame "refugeeness" in the Canadian determination system prior to Bill C-31 from an intersectional analytical framework, this article will draw on what McCall identifies as the intra-categorical complexity approach, where "the point is not to deny the importance--both materially and discursive--of categories but to focus on the process by which they are produced, experienced, reproduced, and resisted in everyday life." (2) Categories such as gender, race, sexuality, and ability will be deconstructed to allow for a broader theoretical and analytical understanding of how interactions and power relations contribute to the production and reproduction of these categories. This will also allow for the recognition of a greater diversity of experiences beyond those expected from reified identity constructs, (3) while at the same time recognizing the material implications of categories within people's lived realities. Refugee subjectivity is constituted and reconstituted at different moments, from the point of fleeing a country of origin, to the experiences of migration, to the refugee determination process, based on complex and contradictory discourses, interactions, and embodied experiences. While refugee claimants interact with numerous and diverse actors and institutions throughout their forced migration, state policies and government agencies play a specific role in imposing this refugee subjectivity on claimants, (4) a "damaged" subjectivity that the claimant may or may not adopt for a multitude of reasons. (5) These designated identities may or may not subsequently affect their determination as "genuine" refugees.

This article reviews the relevant theoretical and empirical literature from diverse disciplinary approaches primarily spanning the last twelve years, since the implementation of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act in 2002. While the majority of the research relied upon was based within the Canadian context, a few articles were selected that focused on refugee determination in other locations as a result of their unique analysis and relevant explanatory value within the Canadian system. …

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