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Barely legal: racism and migrant farm labour in the context of Canadian multiculturalism

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This article investigates how colonial attitudes towards race operate alongside official multiculturalism in Canada to justify the legally exceptional exclusion of migrant farm workers from Canada's socio-political framework. The Canadian Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program is presented in this article as a relic of Canada's racist and colonial past, one that continues uninterrupted in the present age of statist multiculturalism. The legal continuation and growth in the use of non-citizens to conduct labour distasteful to Canadian nationals has provided an effective means for the Canadian state to regulate the ongoing flow of non-preferred races on the margins while promoting a pluralist and ethnically diverse political image at home and abroad. In the face of a labour shortage constructed as a political crisis of considerable urgency, the Canadian state has continued to admit non-immigrants into the country to perform labour deemed unattractive yet necessary for the well-being of Canadian citizens while simultaneously suspending the citizenship and individual rights of those same individual migrant workers. By legislating the restriction of rights and freedoms to a permanently revolving door of temporary non-citizens through the mechanism of a guest worker programme, the Canadian state is participating in the bio-political regulation of foreign nationals.
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Keywords: abuse; migrants; non-citizen; racism; segregation; workers

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Adult Education and Community Development,Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, Toronto,Ontario, Canada

Publication date: 01 April 2012

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