The inevitably exclusionary immigration of a settler society (on exogenous ‘others’): Shanti Fernando, Jen Rinaldi, ‘Seeking Equity: Disrupting a History of Exclusionary Immigration Frameworks’, Canadian Ethnic Studies, 49, 3, 2017, pp. 7-26


Abstract: We argue that Canadian immigration law, policy, and practice have historically excluded, race and disability, on a number of grounds, and that there is a common link between them, which is the perception of immigrants’ inability to adapt and integrate into a Canadian identity. The paper conducts a historical analysis of the Canadian immigration framework situated at the intersection of identities based on race and disability, which we link through Critical Race Theory analysis; and class, which is shown through the “excessive demand” standard, the origins of which we trace in relation to the commodification of immigrants based on their economic value. This paper shows how the marking of immigrant ethnic groups as medically inadmissible—currently by imposing an “excessive demand” test on health care or social services as a class-based admission criterion— both has historical grounding in turn of the century exclusionary logic of racism and ableism, and defies equality standards in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. When we apply “interest convergence,” we see how the limits to Canadian generosity or liberal tolerance are implied in current immigration restrictions. This application shows that even reforms that have now distanced immigration law from having prohibited classes and therefore do not explicitly mention race, disability or disease have only benefited disabled racialized immigrants when those reforms also aligned with the economic interests of the state. We draw upon historical exclusionary laws based on race and disability, that defined race as a disability, and more recent case law based on disability and class, regarding the denial of immigration status to persons with disabilities unless families volunteered to cover costs of care and policies surrounding immigration inspection, to show a continuing pattern of systemic exclusion. According to this pattern, ethnic groups confronting Canadian borders were read alongside and through their diagnoses of disease and disability as undesirable and unassimilable. This now confronts those with disabilities who are considered economically undesirable. The current challenge is therefore to recognize these historical, ableist (discrimination against disability) patterns, and to create policies and laws that are not based on such exclusionary understandings of difference but that instead continue to transform our definition of citizenship and identity in equitable and inclusive ways.

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