A nation, asserted through negation: Daiva Stasiulis, ‘Elimi(Nation): Canada’s “Post-Settler” Embrace of Disposable Migrant Labour’, Studies in Social Justice, 14, 1, 2020, pp. 22-54


Abstract: This article utilizes the lens of disposability to explore recent conditions of low-wage temporary migrant labour, whose numbers and economic sectors have expanded in the 21st century. A central argument is that disposability is a discursive and material relation of power that creates and reproduces invidious distinctions between the value of “legitimate” Canadian settler-citizens (and candidates for citizenship) and the lack of worth of undesirable migrant populations working in Canada, often for protracted periods of time. The analytical lens of migrant disposability draws upon theorizing within Marxian, critical modernity studies, and decolonizing settler colonial frameworks. This article explores the technologies of disposability that lay waste to low wage workers in sites such as immigration law and provincial/territorial employment legislation, the workplace, transport, living conditions, access to health care and the practice of medical repatriation of injured and ill migrant workers. The mounting evidence that disposability is immanent within low-wage migrant labour schemes in Canada has implications for migrant social justice. The failure to protect migrant workers from a vast array of harms reflects the historical foundations of Canada’s contemporary migrant worker schemes in an “inherited background field [of settler colonialism] within which market, racist, patriarchal and state relations converge” (Coulthard, 2014, p. 14). Incremental liberal reform has made little headway insofar as the administration and in some cases reversal of more progressive reforms such as guaranteed pathways to citizenship prioritize employers’ labour interests and the lives and health of primarily white, middle class Canadian citizens at the expense of a shunned and racialized but growing population of migrants from the global South. Transformational change and social justice for migrant workers can only occur by reversing the disposability and hyper-commodification intrinsic to low-wage migrant programs and granting full permanent legal status to migrant workers.


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