Pathways to permanence and immigration levels: struggles and limits to societal membership for migrants amidst COVID-19 in Canada

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from: 11:00
to: 12:00

Join our seminar that will address intensified struggles over access to permanent residence and permanent immigration levels in Canada.

Who and under what terms should members of Canadian society without full immigration status be able to access permanent residence has been the subject of long-term struggle. This seminar addresses intensified struggles over access to permanent residence and permanent immigration levels in Canada amidst and emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic as part of a project that that employs critical policy discourse analysis (CPDA; Montesano Montessori, Farrelly, and Mulderrig 2019) to examine press releases, platforms, and mandate letters published between March 2020 and the end of 2022 by actors active in Canada’s immigration battleground (Ambrosini 2021) at the federal level.

Outside of the far right and Quebec separatist Bloc Québécois party who apply their own notable political pressures, there has recently been near discursive consensus at the Federal level of politics in Canada concerning the need for increased pathways to permanent residence for those living under temporary migration categories in Canada – an important discursive opening in policy discussions.

However despite criticism from the social democratic NDP, labour unions, and migrant justice organizations, employers have been further empowered as actors in terms of setting the terms of societal membership in Canada in a manner that matches their policy demands and advocacy for greater access to migrant worker labour. Measures to implement pathways to permanent residence have been modest in comparison, despite discourses and government mandate letters that would imply a facilitative approach to access to permanent residence and citizenship across skill levels and legal statuses. The expansion of migrant labour continues to far exceed that of permanent immigration levels. Thus while the ubiquity of pathways discourse has indicated a potential political opening for more inclusive policies, actual policy developments – or a lackthereof – demonstrate their limits to date and fundamental continuities in the direction of Canadian immigration and migration policies, despite discourses celebrating the contributions of migrant and precarious status workers during the pandemic.

Substantively, pathways discourses and proposals appear to have provided a way for actors with very different political and policy agendas to signal their commitment to immigrant and migrant rights, but without necessarily engaging in more inclusive structural change that would address the insecurities and exploitation experienced by many living under temporary or precarious statuses. The continued growth of Canada’s migrant worker and precarious status population and the crucial rights that accrue to those who achieve permanent residence mean that pathways discourses and policies granting access to permanent residence will continue to be of tremendous importance and highly contested.

Chair: Marina Keda (European University Institute).

Speaker: John Carlaw (Toronto Metropolitan University).