Guest post by Wendy Chan, Professor of Sociology and Chair of the Graduate Program, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Simon Fraser University, Canada. Her research examines the criminalization of race in the context of immigration enforcement, the welfare state, and in the mainstream media.
In the last several years, the Conservative government in Canada has made it abundantly clear to potential immigrants that unless you’re a young, healthy, working-age person with several university degrees and significant financial resources, preferably from a westernized (read white) country of origin, you’re not welcomed here. What this means is that if you’re a refugee or asylum seeker, a parent or grandparent with children living in Canada whom you wish to be closer to, a Filipino caregiver, a wealthy investor from China, or a skilled worker from Africa or Asia, it will be much more difficult, if not impossible, to immigrant to Canada today.
Canadian immigration policies have been subjected to widespread change in many different programs over the last several years. The previous Immigration Minister, Jason Kenney, who is now the Minister for Employment and Social Services, is the architect of most of these changes. His successor to the immigration portfolio, Chris Alexander, continues down the path charted by Kenney with evermore restrictions, particularly in the family class category, and increased enforcement overall.
Throughout ongoing claims of widespread problems with fraud, the government has rarely, if ever, provided statistics to demonstrate the real extent of these problems in any of the programs that have been targeted. Nor are these statistics publicly available. Instead, hand-picked anecdotes are used to suggest that the problems of fraud and abuse are rampant, and they need to be managed with greater enforcement and tighter restrictions on access.
Conflating immigration with criminality has allowed the government to target a large swath of immigrants, migrants, and refugees for greater surveillance and enforcement. By redrawing the boundaries of who constitutes a ‘desirable’ immigrant, it becomes clear that racialized individuals, more than ever, do not fit the government’s narrow profile of what it means to be ‘desirable.’
The pace of change has been rapid and meteoric. Some of the key changes include:
- Bill C-31, Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, was passed making it more difficult for asylum seekers and refugees to apply for protection and introduces mandatory 12-month detention without access to independent review for certain categories of arriving non-citizens.
- The Interim Federal Health program saw changes in June 2012 that resulted in the elimination of health care for many refugees and refugee claimants as well as a reduction in health care access for many other refugees.
- Bill C-24, Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, makes it more difficult for permanent residents to gain Canadian citizenship.
- Applications to the Federal Immigrant Investor’s Program and the Entrepreneur Program were terminated with the Economic Action Plan 2014 Act.
- Bill C-38, Jobs, Growth and Long Term Prosperity Act, led to the termination of approximately 280,000 applications to the Federal Skilled Workers program.
- Sponsorship of foreign spouses and family members has been tightened, with longer sponsorship periods and increased financial commitments.
- The Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act (Bill C-43) denies permanent residents serving sentences of six months or more for ‘serious crimes’ the right to appeal a deportation order.
- Biometric information (i.e., photograph and fingerprints) from applicants on the list of countries named by the government will be required as part of their visa applications.
While no one would dispute the need to ensure the integrity of the system, critics have questioned many of the changes, especially given the paucity of evidence demonstrating that these are significant problems. Moreover, the desire to resolve administrative backlogs shouldn’t be done at the expense of applicants who have applied in good faith to immigrant to Canada. The balance between enforcement and the creation of an immigration system that provides equal and fair access for immigrants and refugees has been lost with these policy changes.
- Hidden Away: Policies and Politics of Immigration Detention in Canada by Jeff Shantz
- Dancing in a Dangerous Time: Canada’s Treatment of Foreign Strippers by Jessica Templeman
- Canadian Court Rules that Denying Asylum Seekers’ Access to Public Health Care is “Cruel and Unusual Treatment” and Discriminatory by Audrey Macklin
- Temporary Foreign Workers – Why Now? by Catherine Dauvergne
- The Shifting Landscape of the Canadian Border and the Politics of Refugee Exclusion by Efrat Arbel
How to cite this blog post (Harvard style):
Chan W (2014) Are We All Frauds Now? The Ongoing Criminalization of Immigration in Canada. Available at:/ (Accessed [date]).