Academic journal article Canadian Review of Social Policy

Inner Border Making in Canada: Tracing Gendered and Raced Processes of Immigration Policy Changes between 2006 and 2015

Academic journal article Canadian Review of Social Policy

Inner Border Making in Canada: Tracing Gendered and Raced Processes of Immigration Policy Changes between 2006 and 2015

Article excerpt


As Giorgio Agamben (1995) noted twenty years ago, "The novelty of our era, which threatens the very foundations of nation-state, is that growing portions of humanity can no longer be represented within it" (p. 115). This situation is even more prevalent today. Indeed, the past few decades have been characterized by significant increases in international migration. In 2015, the United Nations estimated that approximately 244 million people live outside their country of birth, a 41 percent increase compared to 2000 (United Nations, 2016). The Canadian government has followed global trends in reacting to the increase of international migration in accordance with neoliberal logic and global security discourse. The migrants who are deemed to be selfsufficient and highly skilled (i.e. Federal Skilled Workers, Provincial Nominees, Canadian Experience Class, Immigrant Investors and Immigrant Entrepreneurs) have been actively sought after, giving them easier access to permanent residency, while those who are deemed to be lower-skilled have been accepted only with temporary immigration status, with no or limited access to civil, economic and social rights (Alboim & Cohl, 2012; Valiani, 2013). Other migrants who enter Canada under the Family Class and Refugee Protection Program have not only been given less priority but have also often been targeted as security concerns, with stricter conditions to acquire secure immigration status. Sharma (2006) and Walia (2013) have argued that these border control practices grant legitimacy to the global system of nation-states and reinforce physical and psychological borders against radicalized bodies, which maintain the sanctity and myth of the superiority of Western civilization and global capitalism. Balibar's (2002) assertion that "borders never exist in the same way for individuals belonging to different social groups" (p.79) is profoundly relevant here.

Drawing on critical race readings of Canadian nation-building and the critical border literature that re-conceptualizes borders as processes and multidimensional, this paper examines the ways in which bordering practices shifted inward under the previous Conservative government (2006-2015). More specifically, I examine official narratives in the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) documents related to two policy changes: 1) Conditional permanent residency for the spousal sponsorship program, and 2) Bill C-43: Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act. These two policies were instrumental in depriving historically marginalized groups-namely immigrant women and racialized communities-of more secure immigration status (i.e. permanent residence). The documents relating to these two policies are interpreted through a Foucauldian understanding of discourse in order to trace the discursive mechanism of inner border making at play in these policy changes. I pay particular attention to the discursive construction of "problem" and "solution", which each policy change aims to address

I begin by providing the political context in which these policy changes took place. This will be followed by the theoretical discussion on border and nation building. The rest of paper provides the analysis of two policy changes, focusing on the discursive processes in which gendered and racialized constructions of inner borders took place. One remark should be made upfront. Given that immigration is a rapidly changing policy site in Canada, some of the information provided here may be outdated by the time of publication of this article. For example, the provision of conditional permanent residency for the spousal sponsorship program I examine here, has been repealed by the new Liberal government as of April 28, 2017. Thus, the merit and intention of this paper is not on providing an evaluation or measuring the implication of existing policies but rather on elucidating the power relations embedded in these policy changes.

"Modernizing Canada's immigration system"

Soon after forming a minority government in 2006, the Conservative government introduced an economic plan called Advantage Canada: Building A Strong Economy for Canadians in 2006. …

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