Devolution and Recentralization in the Canadian Immigration System: Theory, Causes, and Impacts

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Reeve, Iain
immigration , Canadian politics , Canadian public olicy , federalism
Despite being an area of constitutionally concurrent responsibility, immigration policy was almost completely dominated by the federal government for much of Canada's history. This changed initially in Quebec, where after the Quiet Revolution a series of bilateral agreements granted the provincial government incrementally increasing responsibility over immigration, culminating in almost full devolution in 1991. However, soon after Quebec's journey toward devolution concluded, the journey of other provinces began. By the turn of the 21st century, every province was active — though to drastically varying degrees — in selection policy, many provinces were active in settlement policy, and two additional provinces had negotiated agreements giving them predominate control over the planning and funding of settlement policies, subject only to quite general federal guidelines. However, in an unusual move, the federal government announces in 2012 that it would terminate the devolution of settlement programming to the two provinces, and hinted at recentralization in selection policy as well. This dissertation investigates this unusual episode in Canada's federal history. The chapters are guided by attempts to answer three principal analytical questions. First, why, after a century-long period of federal dominance in all areas of immigration policy did Canada move towards a system of asymmetrical devolution? Second, did this devolution have a substantive impact on the nature of selection and settlement policies; have the provincial approaches proved significantly different than the federal? Finally, third, why did this system change, leading to a recentralization of settlement policy, and potential for similar changes in selection policy? On top of these three questions, the dissertation also addresses, in the concluding chapter, a normative question which draws on answers to the other three questions. Namely, what level of centralization or decentralization will lead to the best immigrant selection and settlement policies in the Canadian context?
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