Temporariness, Rights, and Citizenship: The Latest Chapter in Canada’s Exclusionary Migration and Refugee History


Amrita Hari


Associate Professor

Feminist Institute of Social Transformation

Carleton University

Professor Hari is the Director of the Feminist Institute of Social Transformation at Carleton University and is interested in global migrations, transnationalism, diaspora, citizenship.


This work examines the similarities and differences between refugee claimants and low-skilled temporary foreign workers in Canada on the path to gaining citizenship, and the exclusionary circumstances they face.

The research paper examines Canada’s exclusionary migrant history, specifically the similarities between two groups of non-citizens: lower-skilled temporary foreign workers and refugee claimants.

In 2014, Canada’s Economic Action Plan increased the occurrence and persistence of temporariness for both groups. Increasing temporariness systematically excludes these groups from a wide array of rights such as provincial workplace standards, family (re) unification, permanent status, and eligibility for citizenship.

Key Findings

There are some important differences between non-citizens: lower-skilled temporary foreign workers and refugee claimants as well. Refugee claimants have access to social assistance but reduced rights to work, while low-skilled temporary foreign workers face more restrictive labour market options (work permits are tied to specific employers) but without rights to social assistance anywhere in Canada, relying on employers and private actors for basic needs.
The exclusionary nature of these restrictions reflects the host country’s discriminatory history and contemporary devaluation of select groups of temporary residents. Restricting citizenship increases individual's vulnerability and social exclusion.
Effective policy should view these two groups as theoretically and experimentally linked. Although the groups differ in some respects, linking them may help Canada avoid their dark, exclusionary past.

How to use

States must consider the effectiveness of communicating the eligibility and conditions associated with different migration schemes – asking important questions such as: who is the information reaching? How might it help them? Who is being missed and how can they be informed?
Status for all - arriving with permanent status in the host country remains the most effective strategy to ensure that non-citizens can access substantive citizenship rights.
As states consider more two-step migration - providing new pathways for temporary residents to transition into permanent residents – they should reconsider the focus on employment as a signal of contributions since it often leads to increased employer exploitation, survival employment instead of commensurate employment, and downward labour mobility.
States and service organisations should stop viewing each of the schemes and its applicants (e.g., refugee claimants, international students, temporary foreign workers, etc.) in siloes and start to identify the commonalities among them to provide better services.     

Want to read the full paper? It is available open access

Hari, Amrita, (2014). ‘Temporariness, Rights, and Citizenship: The Latest Chapter in Canada’s Exclusionary Migration and Refugee History’. Refuge: Canada’s Journal on Refugees, 30(2), pp.35–44.

About this research

This research was independently conducted and did not receive funding from outside of the university.

Recommended for

UN Sustainable Development Goals

This research contributes to the following SDGs

What it means

The findings here are relevant to consider for the temporary labour schemes and refugee admission systems in several immigrant-receiving nations, including Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and other European countries.

Aside from temporary labour schemes, these ideas can also be relevant for the growing number of changes to skilled migration programs.

As well, it is important to consider as more immigrant receiving countries move towards two-step migration: providing new pathways for temporary residents, such as visitors, foreign workers, and international graduates, to transition into permanent residents.
a. Who is being targeted? What types of jobs are they assuming? What jobs are they qualified for?
b. Who is staying after being temporary?


The research methodology used policy and conceptual analysis.


Migration Management
The process by which governments make concerted efforts to manipulate and manage migration to select immigrants who bring net benefits that are higher than net costs to the receiving country.
Temporariness is a juridical status is based on temporality (limited period of stay) and conditionality (i.e., rights conditional upon their behaviour such as satisfying a specific employer to remain in the country)
Substantive Citizenship Rights
A wide range of rights including permanent status (right to stay), work, access to workplace benefits, healthcare, social assistance, among others.

Let your research make a social impact

Tyree Vasconcellos prepared this research following an interview with Amrita Hari.