In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Immigrant Incorporation in Canada

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews and Textbooks
  • Journals
  • Transnationalism

Political Science Immigrant Incorporation in Canada
Irene Bloemraad, Mireille Paquet
  • LAST REVIEWED: 02 May 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 October 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0027


Scholars of immigration want to understand why people move across international borders, and what the consequences of migration are for the individuals involved, and the people and societies they enter and leave behind. Canada is a long-standing country of immigration, from the earliest British and French colonial settlers to contemporary migrants who hail from around the world. Today, about one in five Canadian residents was born outside the country and, in proportion to its population, more new permanent migrants arrive each year than in any other highly developed nation. The politics and social dynamics of this migration and settlement are shaped by Canada’s institutions: from federalism and the courts to its school systems and labor market regulations. These dynamics are also shaped by the country’s history of race and ethnic relations, which includes the political mobilization and government response to First Nations peoples and the country’s francophone minority, which is largely but not exclusively concentrated in Quebec. Theoretically, the scholarship on immigration in Canada sometimes draws on ideas and research conducted in other countries, especially the United States, but scholars of Canadian immigration also provide important models for researchers and policymakers in other countries. The specificity of a Canadian approach is especially evident in federal/provincial partnerships and the points system used to select migrants, in the country’s refugee determination system, and in its policy of multiculturalism.

General Overviews and Textbooks

An excellent starting point to understanding immigration in Canada is the overviews in Li 2003, Fleras 2015, and Reitz 2014, all of which combine attention to history, current policy, and the socioeconomic integration of immigrants. For those wanting more detail on law and policy, Becklumb 2008, an overview of the Canadian immigration program, is a good primer. It should be supplemented with Alboim and Cohl 2012 and Fleras 2015 for more recent legislative proposals and actions. Li 2003 provides not only a descriptive overview of the topic, but also an argument about how issues of race imbue Canadian immigration, historically and in the present. This is a theme developed further in Satzewich and Liodakis 2010, a textbook now in a second edition. Canadian scholars have been at the forefront of studying and debating issues of diversity and social cohesion, themes showcased in the volume Banting, et al. 2007. In comparison, Canadian research on transnationalism has lagged that of scholars elsewhere, but see Simmons 2010 on immigration and transnationalism in the Canadian context.

  • Alboim, Naomi, and K. A. Cohl. Shaping the Future: Canada’s Rapidly Changing Immigration Policies. Toronto: Maytree Foundation, 2012.

    This policy paper was published by an Ontario charitable organization that produces a large amount of research. It traces the changes to Canada’s refugee, immigration, and integration policies between 2008 and 2012. It is a good supplement to Becklumb 2008 and voices concerns over the content of policy changes as well as with the processes by which these changes were made.

  • Banting, Keith, Thomas J. Courchene, and Leslie S. Seidle, eds. Belonging? Diversity, Recognition and Shared Citizenship in Canada. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2007.

    This collection of essays by leading scholars focuses on the dynamics of social cohesion given the diversity of Canadian society, including political recognition of immigrant populations, First Nations, and the country’s long-standing francophone communities.

  • Becklumb, Penny. Background: Canada’s Immigration Program. Ottawa, ON: Library of Parliament, 2008.

    This is a general overview of Canada’s immigration and integration policies that includes a discussion of legal framework, categories of immigrants, temporary immigration, judicial review, removal, integration and settlement initiatives, and the role of the provinces. To be consulted with work covering changes in policy since 2008, for example Alboim and Cohl 2012.

  • Fleras, Augie. Immigration Canada: Evolving Realities and Emerging Challenges in a Postnational World. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2015.

    This book proposes a broad overview of immigration in Canada, combining history and recent developments in policies and processes. Great resource for a foundational discussion of policy changes brought forward by the Conservative government since 2008. Includes chapters on migration theory, immigrant integration, and contemporary governance challenges.

  • Li, Peter S. Destination Canada: Immigration Debates and Issues. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

    This accessible overview introduces many issues central to public debates over immigration in Canada, from the social construction of who, exactly, is an immigrant to the economic dimensions of immigration and integration in a context of population renewal. Li provides informative figures and tables, and also argues for the importance of race in understanding immigration in Canada.

  • Reitz, Jeffrey G. “Canada: New Initiatives and Approaches to Immigration and Nation-Building.” In Controlling Immigration: A Global Perspective. 3d ed. Edited by James F. Hollifield, Philip L. Martin, and Pia M. Orrenius. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2014.

    Part of a volume comparing immigration and integration policies across a dozen countries, this chapter provides an excellent overview of the Canadian case, including attention to how institutions—from educational systems to labor markets—combine with Canada’s peculiar mix of multiculturalism and bilingualism to affect migration and integration.

  • Satzewich, Vic, and Nikolaos Liodakis. “Race” and Ethnicity in Canada: A Critical Introduction. 2d ed. Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press Canada, 2010.

    This book presents an accessible overview of theoretical debates on race and ethnicity, and applies them to Canadian history and the contemporary context, including chapters on immigration, multiculturalism, and transnational identities in a globalized context.

  • Simmons, Alan B. Immigration and Canada: Global and Transnational Perspectives. Toronto: Canadian Scholar’s, 2010.

    Situated within a global approach to international migration, this book provides a critical perspective to immigration in Canada, spanning topics from the historical roots of Canadian migration to contemporary debates over refugees, temporary workers, undocumented migration, and migrant trafficking.

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