Welcome/Stay out. the Contradiction of Canadian Integration and Immigration Policies at the Millennium. (1)

By Abu-Laban, Yasmeen | Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal, Fall 1998 | Go to article overview

Welcome/Stay out. the Contradiction of Canadian Integration and Immigration Policies at the Millennium. (1)


Abu-Laban, Yasmeen, Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal


ABSTRACT/RESUME

This paper examines the politics surrounding the history, evolution and trajectory of policy regarding immigration and the place of immigrants in Canadian society. The main focus is on the first mandate of the federal Liberal government of Jean Chretien (1993-1997). During this period, the combination of politicized debates over the value of multiculturalism and the value of immigration, amid neoliberal agenda shifts, suggest the emergence of a new policy era when it comes to immigration and the Canadian symbolic order. This new era is characterized by a reduced emphasis on multiculturalism and an increasing emphasis on immigrant 'self-sufficiency' and 'integration' into Canadian society. Paradoxically, the inclusionary stress in the discourse on integration irreconcilably contradicts the intensifying exclusions governing immigrant selection to Canada that result from the stress on self-sufficiency.

Cet article porte sur les politiques recentes d'immigration au Canada par rapport aux grandes orientations adoptees dans le passe par le Canada sur cette question et la place accordee aux immigrants dans la societe canadienne. La periode etudiee principalement est celle du premier gouvernement du premier ministre Jean Chretien soit de 1993 a 1997. Pendant cette periode de quatre ans, la combinaison de plusieurs facteurs, comme les debats politiques sur la valeur du multiculturalisme et de l'immigration de meme que l'influence des politiques neoliberales, a entraine l'apparition d'une nouvelle orientation generale concernant l'immigration et le symbolisme politique canadien. Cette nouvelle periode est caracterisee par une reduction de la valeur-symbolique et politique du multiculturalisme et une plus grande importance accordee a 'l'auto-suffisance' des immigrants et leur 'integration' a la societe canadienne. Le paradoxe de cette nouvelle periode et de cette nouvelle orientation generale reside donc, d'une par t, dans un discours inclusif insistant sur l'integration et, d'autre part, le facteur exclusif de selection des immigrants en fonction du critere de l'auto-suffisance.

Introduction

This fin de siecle, like times past, has captured many imaginations. The year 2000 (popularly dubbed Y2K) is clearly not just any other calendar year. In North America, a proliferation of websites, advertising images, and apocalyptic groups converge around the idea that the millennium will usher in fundamental transformation. (2) To honour Y2K, Canada's major English language weekly news magazine, Maclean's, announced a special editorial series on the millennium between 1998 and the end of 1999. (3) Joining the trend, in Ottawa, the Liberal government of Jean Chretien elected in 1993 and securing a second mandate in 1997, has used the impending reality of the next century as a recurrent motif in recent immigration policy debates, discussions, and statements. Unprecedented public consultations were conducted on immigration in 1994 in the name of determining policy 'for the next century.' The Liberal plan for immigration, unveiled the same year, carries the striking title Into the 21st Century: A Strategy for I mmigration and Citizenship. Drawing on the widespread motif again in 1998, the current Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Lucienne Robillard, defended proposals to review, if not completely replace, the 1978 Immigration Act. This was on the grounds that immigration law in the "new millennium" must be "managed effectively" and "meet the challenges of the 21st century." (4)

Between the one extreme of viewing the millennium as a cataclysmic rupture, and the Ottawa approach, as a sweeping justification for any policy measure, lies an alternative perspective: the millennium offers a useful marker to take stock. In particular, the imminent close of the twentieth century acts as a benchmark upon which to analyze the decade of the 1990s, and, therefore, what the early years of the next century may portend. …

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