Author:Rylan Higgins (Saint Mary's University)
Paper short abstract:
How does existence of and enthusiasm for the federal government's private refugee sponsorship program fit into and shape broader patterns of neoliberalism in the everyday lives of Canadians?
Paper long abstract:
In the fall of 2016, Minister of Immigration John McCallum was taking Canada's private refugee sponsorship program abroad, presenting Canada's approach to resettling Syrian refugees as a model for the rest of the world to emulate. Now well known to Canadians, private sponsorship was first used to bring Vietnamese refugees to the country in the 1970s. It is based on the idea that citizens take the driver's seat, so to speak. In the case of its recent application, this meant that groups of ordinary people provided the funding, other resources and supports necessary to bring Syrians to their region. Individuals donated much money and time. Media coverage of resettlement highlighted the central role of Canadian do-gooders, leaving Syrians as "extras" in stories that were supposed to be about them. The use of ordinary Canadians as de facto agents of the state and the public support for this program raise troubling questions. How did it impact actual government personnel, for example, when inflows of refugees overburdened social services beyond the scope of the program? How do these developments overlap, moreover, with other gaps in social services such as that which leaves the provision of food security also in the hands of private citizens? How does such enthusiasm for private sponsorship fit into and shape broader patterns of neoliberalism in the everyday lives of Canadians?