Keeping it in the Family: The (Re-) Production of Conjugal Citizens Through Canadian Immigration Policy and Practice
Family Diversity , Canadian Immigration Policy
This is an examination of how conjugality acts as an access point for Canadian citizenship. The conjugal family unit — married or common-law — continues to be privileged in Canadian law and policy; this is especially evident in immigration policy and practice. Family class immigration continues to be a steady source of immigrants for Canada, spousal/partner sponsorship being the primary type of family reunification. In order to control access, a strict understanding of conjugality is used to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate families. When it comes to family class immigration, it is not simply a case of individuals sponsoring individuals; it is about the state producing and maintaining the ideal family unit through the provision of citizenship. My analysis proceeds in two main parts. First, I engage with mainstream Canadian citizenship theory — focusing specifically on the work of Will Kymlicka and Rita Dhamoon — and analyze its focus on the individual citizen. Moreover, I examine how the state’s asymmetrical treatment of conjugality has created two versions of the conjugal family — the inside family (families within Canadian borders) and the outside family (families outside Canadian borders). Second, I explore the state’s reliance on conjugal relationships in their assessment of potential immigrants and refugees in three areas of immigration policy — the assessment of sexual minority refugee claimants, the assessment of common-law couples seeking sponsorship, and the government’s current crackdown on marriage fraud. Combined, these examples speak to the Canadian state’s vested interest in privileging the conjugal family unit; furthermore, they highlight how the inconsistent and often ambiguous treatment of conjugality undermines its effectiveness as the primary mode of identification in family class immigration. In summary, this dissertation integrates families into a body of scholarship that has ignored the role that one’s personal relationships plays in the provision of state access.