By: RADIYAH CHOWDHURY
“Foreignness is now constructed as a criminal threat,” said Wendy Chan, professor at Simon Fraser University.
On Oct. 3, the Department of Law and Legal Studies at Carleton University hosted Chan as a guest speaker of one of their Chet Mitchell Memorial Lecture series.
The lecture, “Crimmigration Policies in Canada” focused on the topic of escalating policies regarding the criminalization of immigrants.
“Immigration to Canada has become increasingly difficult,” Chan said. “One of the key strategies adopted by western states for preventing unwanted migrants and immigrants from entering is to criminalize their activities in the name of national security and state sovereignty.”
Chan’s empirical beginning noted the rapidly evolving network of immigrant control policies in Canada, with the network comprising of two parts.
The first part related to criminal convictions, with restricted access to appeal.
With activities of behaviour being redefined as criminal, more immigrants and refugees are subjected to policies such as deportation and detention, according to Chan.
The second part is the regulation of immigration itself. Different criminal tools are being used to manage immigration flow.
“What we’re seeing happen in the last little while is the increasing use of GPS bracelets for migrants, and a collection of biometric data mills,” Chan said.
“These are just two ways in which immigrants and refugees are being managed [in a way] similar to the treatment of individuals in the criminal justice system.”
She also spoke of the mainstream media’s depictions of immigrants and refugees, who are commonly depicted as the cause of chaos and disorder. This coverage suggests they pose a danger to the rest of Canada by “virtue of their troubled backgrounds or cultural difference,” according to Chan.
Various western nations are being drawn together to create security perimeters, such as the development of transnational databases, Chan explained.
“Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom quietly signed an agreement in October 2009 to share their fingerprint databases in order to combat immigration fraud,” she added that this was decided despite some concerns over what the information would deduce and how it could be safeguarded.
Chan touched upon different topics, including immigration detention, which is mandatory detention without access to appeal rights for “irregularly arrived non-citizens.”
Chan referred to a report by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association that reminded Canadians that immigration status cannot be easily separated from race and ethnicity.
As well, any policy that seeks to deny rights on the basis of immigration status needs to be carefully examined. This way, Chan said, racism and xenophobia won’t be able to be the justification for differential treatment.
Though Chan did say immigrants who commit crimes should be prosecuted, she added that, “criminal law should not be used, nor does it have any role to play in the regulation of immigration flow.”