Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Sociology

Supervisor

Dr. Danièle Bélanger

Abstract

Immigration and population diversity are hot topics in Canadian society. Canadian immigration discourses include widespread debates over the value of immigration to Canada, the structure of the immigration program, and the impact of immigrants with ‘non-Canadian’ traditions and practices on Canadian society. Representations deployed in these discourses operate to socially construct the Canadian nation, and symbolically define immigrants’ place in Canada’s national imagined community. The present thesis elaborates on theoretical understandings of the social construction of the Canadian national community in the contemporary era of international migration by providing a qualitative critical discourse analysis of three types of Canadian immigration discourses: (1) media discourse (focusing on news media coverage of marriage immigrants); (2) policy discourse (addressing materials produced by Citizenship and Immigration Canada); and (3) official measurement of immigrants (in the form of the Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada and its accompanying analytical reports). The thesis reveals that these dominant immigration discourses serve to co-construct immigrants, Canadians, and the Canadian state in the imagining of the Canadian national community. These representations reveal that contemporary immigration to Canada is a major source of tension and uncertainty. This ambivalence manifests as inconsistent representations of immigrants (in general, and different groups of immigrants, in particular), involving co-existing, contradictory discourses of inclusion, marginalization, and exclusion. These representations inconsistently gender and racialize immigrants, often in the context of immigration categories of admission. These varied representations are interpreted in the thesis in terms of the convergence of historical patterns of discrimination, the growth in immigration from non-European source countries, contemporary national and international concerns (e.g., economic stability; terrorism), and rhetorical pride in Canada as a multicultural nation. Overall, the present study contributes to theoretical work on Canadian immigration and imagined communities by furthering understandings of the various ways in which immigration discourses operate as conceptual spaces wherein what it means to be Canadian is articulated, and the place of immigrants in the Canadian nation is defined and contested.


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