The racial subtext in Canada’s immigration discourse

  • Petr S. Li


The articulation of race has become subtle and elusive in democratic societies because racism conflicts with principles of equality and non-discrimination. This article examines Canada’s immigration discourse and argues that a racial subtext can be discerned from the discourse by examining its vocabulary, syntax, structure, and implied rationale. The study shows that codified concepts and an implied logic are used to convey racial massages that appear not to be “race”-based. The discourse is further facilitated by opinion polls and academic studies that reify the notion of “race” and legitimize its everyday use as a harmless concept. It is the discourse itself, and not implied differences of “race”, that fragments Canada. The study recommends abandoning the use of racial subtext in academic research and immigration policy development.

Key words

Immigration discourse race subtext Canada 


La définition de la race est devenue subtile et insaisissable dans les sociétés démocratiques parce que le racisme entre en conflit avec les principes d’égalité et de non-discrimination. Cet article examine le discours canadien en matière d’immigration et fait valoir qu’il est possible de discerner dans ce discours un thème racial sous-jacent, si l’on examine le vocabulaire, la syntaxe, la structure et le raisonnement implicite. L’étude montre que des concepts codifiés et une logique implicite servent à transmettre des messages raciaux qui semblent ne pas se fonder sur la «race». Ce discours est en outre facilité par des sondages d’opinion et des études universitaires qui concrétisent la notion de «race» et légitimisent son utilisation quotidienne comme un concept inoffensif. C’est le discours lui-même, et non pas les différences implicites concernant la race, qui fragmente le Canada. L’étude recommande d’abandonner l’utilisation d’un thème racial sous-jacent dans les recherches universitaires et dans l’élaboration d’une politique d’immigration.


discours thème sous-jacent 


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Copyright information

© Springer SBM 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Petr S. Li
    • 1
  1. 1.University of SaskatchewanSaskatchewanCanada

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