#WS3330G Immigration and Refugee Protection Act: #Terrorism & #HumanTrafficking

So yesterday I did a presentation on Valeria Knowles’ book which is entitled “Stranger at Our Gates.” This book is a detailed historical analysis on immigration policy from 1504 until 1997, and within the past decade.

This isn’t the first time I have written about IRPA on this blog. I have touched on it briefly in previous posts on human trafficking and terrorism. In fact, part of the presentation included such interests of mine. In particular, my curiousity within this topics are on the discourses that frame how these topics are analyzed (or more correctly, not analyzed).

Within this presentation I spoke specifically on the motive requirement which I write in great detail in my paper entitled, “Anti-Terrorism Law and Ideology: An Analysis of the Motive Requirement.” In short, the motive requirement was described as being essential to terrorist activities, and in order to fulfill this requirement one must be seen as “acting in a manner calculated to promote social and political change through violent, undemocratic means…motivated by shared ideology” (Jenkins 2009:432). The problem with this motive requirement, as discussed in my paper and several other scholars, is that such activities become discriminatory in nature (not that the institutions that govern such activity are inhernetly non-discriminatory). In fact, scholars who have written on this topic argue that motive requirement within the definition of terrorist activity needs to be removed to prevent racial, social, political, or religious profiling of both innocent citizens and non-citizens of Canada (Webb 2005; Roach 2005; Carter 2009). We all know that being profiled is only a problem for racialized/indigenized and minority groups (non-citizenship status for example), and by racialized, I don’t mean white people. Remember Skylar Murphy who was still allowed to board a plane to Mexico with a pipe bomb in his bag?  Not only this, the motive requirement expands the defintion of what constitutes terrorist activity. This definition is so broad that Cindy Blackstock, who advocates for the rights of First Nations children both domestically and internationally, was listed as an enemy to the state of Canada under Canadian Security Intelligence Services.

In additon to the above, the way in which institutions and policies address the issue of human trafficking is problematic. Within Canada, human trafficking is defined in two distinct ways, one includes a definition under the IRPA and the other under the Criminal Code of Canada. The Criminal Code of Canada deals specifically with domestic human trafficking (in other words, the trafficking that allegedly affects Indigenous women and girls) and the IRPA deals with international human trafficking, or the movement of bodies across borders (in other words, the kind that allegedly affects immigrant/migrant women and girls). Further, institutions state the victim does not know it is a victim. Most recently, within a Canada-wide police initiative (a shit show of a strategy) to combat human trafficking, only one person was arrested and the police stated that the woman was 18 years old (meaning of legal age to consent) and that she did not cooperate with the police (Source). More precisely, she did not identify as a victim. So what happened to that woman? Was she arrested, charged, or taken to a holding cell? What will happen to other individuals who don’t subscribe to the victim identity? Therefore, it is up to the systems (aka policing/border patrol) to identify victims and perpatrators, and these two (without accident) are defined as originating from the same ethnic origin which could potentially criminalize personal or familial relationships.

These discourses on human trafficking are compelling, especially since white women (historically) were defined as “chosen” or “recruited” through immigration policies or initiatives in an effort to help build families (or build Canada aka protect whiteness). Meanwhile, the movement of Black, brown, and Indigenous bodies across borders and within borders were/are being defined as trafficked (historically and presently), which also restricts/restricted their movement greatly, and defining them in such a manner meaning it was/is a problem that needs to be dealt with swiftly (aka with aggressive policing initiatives–much like this one happening in 2014). Racism, as it existed/exists in immigration policies/inititatives always tend(ed) to focus on how to protect and maintain Canada’s whiteness. Additionally, present day anti-human trafficking campaigns only ever include white faces/bodies within their advertisements or materials. But in the same breath, the same organizations argue that there is a need to protect the most vulnerable, or women of color or Indigenous women.

This begs the question, what are we really trying to accomplish with these discourses and policies?

#WS3330G Stranger at Our Gates by Valerie Knowles

The purpose of the book, Strangers at Our Gates, which is authored by Valerie Knowles, “describes briefly the different kinds of immigrants who have settled in this country over the centuries and the immigration policies that have helped to define the character of immigration in various periods” (p. ix). Stating the obvious, and similar to Knowles, racism played a role in Canadian immigration policy.

Knowles’ historical analysis of Canadian immigration policy adopts the Doctrine of Discovery. The Doctrine of Discovery follows that England discovered North America and this doctrine is used to justify settler invasion. In other words, in Canadian history, those with the biggest guns win, literally and metaphorically. This point also emphasizes the concept of history as a social construction, which speaks directly to the question of power. Dr. Anton Allahar in Hidden From History states, “It is often the view of the most powerful that carries the day and that is remembered” (p. 245). The historical exploration of Canada’s immigration policies speaks to these differential power relations and more specifically, historical silences and the erasure of people and events in Canada’s history. While Knowles’ statement that racism was prevalent within these legislative discourses is correct, I posit that racism was also a method for social control. With my big, bright red and white Canadian thinking cap on, I see our immigration policies acting more like a security blanket for maintaining the Canadian Identity. This begs the question, what is the Canadian identity?

Today, immigration policies are centered on the Canadian philosophy of multiculturalism. Multiculturalism as a policy first began to enter Canadian legislative discourses in the late 1970s and the early 1980s, under the Trudeau and Mulroney eras respectively. It was officially adopted in 1985 under the Canadian Multiculturalism Act. Even though many Canadians seem to adhere to this multiculturalism identity with pride, I suggest that the idea that Canada is a multicultural country is misleading. Multiculturalism is much more of a “cloak” to disguise the racism prevalent in Canadian society. Multiculturalism says that as individuals, newcomers can celebrate their own distinct cultural values and ideals but only if Canadian values and ideals are bought into first, or more precisely, if you assimilate first.

So returning to the initial question on Canadian Identity, I present a closing question: How do you think racism within immigration legislative discourses play a role in maintaining Canadian identity? And, do you think that much has changed within immigration policy over the years especially with respect to racism?