French Politics

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 287–310 | Cite as

Ideological justifications for restrictive immigration policies: An analysis of parliamentary discourses on immigration in France and Canada (2006–2013)

  • Paul MayEmail author
Original Article


In this paper, I analyze the parliamentary discourses on immigration in France and Canada from January 2006 to December 2013 in order to answer the question: What arguments are put forward in parliamentary arenas in order to justify more restrictive immigration policies? Despite their different models of integration and citizenship, France and Canada are facing very similar discussions, involving the same arguments and the same theoretical reflections. Critical discourse analysis shows that immigration is an extremely divisive issue in the political landscape: in both countries, right-wing political parties try to restrict in the name of economic imperatives, while left-wing political parties seek to establish more liberal policies. This finding goes against some studies, which argue that right-wing political parties, influenced by the neoliberal ideology, call for more open borders to immigration. Within the debates, references to national histories, models of integration, and civic values are not especially prominent, especially when compared with the omnipresent discourses of economics. The justifications for more restrictive immigration policies often reveal the dominant position of a global ideology prioritizing values of competitiveness and cost-effectiveness in an era of post-Fordist capitalism. The treatment of refugees, asylum seekers, and illegal immigrants is a paradigmatic example of the trends I have identified. These kinds of immigrants are often at the heart of justifications for implementing restrictive measures. Our empirical material shows that Roma people are particularly targeted by these restrictions in both countries.


immigrants immigration refugees Canada France parliamentary debates Roma left–right multiculturalism 



I would like to thank Will Kymlicka (Queen’s University), Michel Wieviorka (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales), and Alberto Spektorowski (Tel Aviv University) for their helpful comments on this article.


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Queen’s UniversityKingstonCanada

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