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  • TSpace Research Repository

    Branding Canadian experience in immigration policy: Nation-building in a

    neoliberal era Rupaleem Bhuyan, Daphne Jeyapal, Jane Ku, Izumi Sakamoto &

    Elena Chou

    Version Post-Print/ Accepted Manuscript

    Citation (published version)

    Bhuyan, R., Jeyapal, D., Ku, J., Sakamoto, I., & Chou, E. (2017). Branding Canadian Experience in immigration policy: Nation building in a neoliberal era. Journal of International Migration and Integration 18(1): 47-62. doi: 10.1007/s12134-015-0467-4.

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  • Branding Canadian Experience in Immigration Policy:

    Nation-Building in a Neoliberal Era

    Authors: Rupaleem Bhuyan, Daphne Jeyapal, Jane Ku, Izumi Sakamoto and Elena Chou

    *This is the accepted manuscript version of an article that has been published by the Journal ofInternational Migration and Integration. Advanced Online Publication. DOI: 10.1007/s12134-015-0467-4

    Rupaleem Bhuyan

    Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

    Daphne Jeyapal

    School of Social Work and Human Services, Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops, Canada

    Jane Ku

    Womens Studies/Sociology & Anthropology, University of Windsor, Windsor, Canada

    Izumi Sakamoto

    Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

    Elena Chou

    Department of Sociology, York University, Toronto, Canada

  • Branding Canadian Experience



    This paper examines the branding of Canadian experience in Canadian immigration

    policy as a rhetorical strategy for neoliberal nation-building. Since 2008, the Canadian

    government has introduced an unprecedented number of changes to immigration policy. While

    the bulk of these policies produce more temporary and precarious forms of migration, the

    Canadian government has mobilized the rhetoric of Canadian experience as a means to identify

    immigrants who carry the promise of economic and social integration. Through a critical

    discourse analysis of Canadian print media and political discourse, we trace how the brand of

    Canadian experience taps into the affective value of national identity in an era of global

    economic insecurity. We also illustrate how the discourse of CE remains ideologically

    deraciailzed, such that the governments embrace of CE as an immigrant selection criterion

    dismisses the discriminatory effects this discourse has shown to have for racialized immigrants

    in Canada.

    Key words:

    Discourse analysis, immigration policy, media rhetoric, racism, skilled immigrants, integration

  • Branding Canadian Experience


    Branding Canadian Experience in Immigration Policy:

    Nation-Building in a Neoliberal Era


    In 2008, Canada introduced the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) as a new immigration

    stream for skilled temporary foreign workers and/or international students who have a record of

    employment in Canada. In August 2012, emphasis on Canadian experience was further

    institutionalized in a major overhaul of the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), Canadas

    main economic immigration class. The revised FSWP, commonly known as the points system,

    reduced the value of international education and work experience but added Canadian

    experience as a key criterion for immigrant selection. Qubec, the sole province with

    administrative control over immigrant selection, launched a comparable program to CEC in

    2009, called Programme de lexprience qubcoise, or the Quebec Experience Class. The

    Quebec Experience Class similarly selects international students or temporary foreign workers

    who have either studied or worked in Quebec. Due to the unique context of immigration into

    Quebec, this paper will focus on the broader concept of Canadian experience (herein referred to

    as CE).

    Both the CEC and revised FSWP are promoted as a remedy to the documented decline in

    labor market outcomes of recent skilled immigrants (Reitz 2012). Although Canadas human

    capital approach to immigrant selection is known for its relative success, in recent decades,

    immigrants have earned lower incomes and have higher rates of unemployment, despite higher

    levels of education than Canadian born workers (Ferrer, Picot, and Ridell 2014, Reitz, Curtis,

  • Branding Canadian Experience


    and Elrick 2014). Many aspects of the CEC were modeled on recommendations from a report by

    Lesleyanne Hawthorne (2008) who compared labour market outcomes for migrant professionals

    in Canada and Australia. Hawthorne was commissioned by the Government of Canada and

    reported that while both Australia and Canada have a high percentage of foreign-born and focus

    on recruiting immigrants with skills, immigrants in Canada have higher levels of

    unemployment due to a misfit between immigrants skills and the job market. Hawthorne

    concluded that Australias two-step migration process, where temporary migrants apply for

    permanent residence after accruing a host-country degree or work experience, produces better

    labour market outcomes.

    By emphasizing work experience in Canada, Sweetman and Warman (2010) note that the

    concept of skilled worker in the CEC differs in important ways from how skilled workers

    were previously defined in immigration policy. Under the previous FSWP, skilled worker was

    a prospective designation for applicants who demonstrated high levels of education, language

    ability, and professional work experience outside of Canada at the time of their application. The

    skilled worker in the CEC and revised FSWP is a retrospective demonstration of an

    individuals employment history in Canada and language proficiency in one of Canadas official

    languages (Sweetman and Warman 2010).

    Within Canada, the concept of Canadian experience plays a controversial role as an

    employment barrier for skilled immigrants. As early as the 1970s, media reported cases where

    immigrants were denied jobs because they lack Canadian experience. Research on the

    discriminatory effects of CE on immigrants led the Ontario Human Rights Commission to

    formerly recognize the use of CE by employers as a form of discrimination in 2012.

  • Branding Canadian Experience


    In this paper, we examine the concept of CE as it appears in public policy and media

    representations of skilled immigrants. As a background for our analysis, we review literature on

    Canadian nation building and the discourse of Canadian experience prior to its appearance in

    immigration policy. We then present a conceptual framework to examine the branding of CE as a

    rhetorical tool for nation building. Using semiotic theories of language and discourse, we

    examine broadcasted political discourse and mainstream print media as two sets of public

    articulation where social actors use and manipulate discourse to harness power. Our analysis

    traces the ways in which CE emotes a compelling national identity in an era of global economic

    insecurity; one that usurps the discriminatory and assimilationist effects this discourse has for

    racialized immigrants in Canada.

    The Context of Canadian Immigration and Nation Building

    As a prototypical nation of immigrants, Canada has historically relied on immigrants to

    fuel economic and population growth, while adjusting immigration controls to preserve the

    whiteness of the nation. From the outset, Canada established its sovereignty by constructing the

    white settler (i.e. immigrants from Great Britain, the United States, France and some northern

    European nations), over non-preferred (e.g. immigrants from Italy, Poland, Greece), or

    historically excluded groups (e.g. First Nation, Inuit, Mtis and indigenous groups; Japanese,

    Chinese and Indian immigrants; and African slaves who were barred from citizenship)

    (Jakubowski 1997, 11-12). Canadas white policy is exemplified in a post-World War II speech

    by Prime Minister Mackenzie King who defended Canadas sovereign right to select British and

    northern European immigrants as preferred citizens: I wish to make quite clear that Canada is

    perfectly within her rights in selecting the persons whom we regard as desirable future citizens. It

  • Branding Canadian Experience


    is not a fundamental human right of any alien to enter Canada. It is a privilege. It is a matter of

    domestic policy (quoted in Triadafilos 2012, 15).