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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Crossing borders and telling stories : legal and literary perspectives on the assessment of economic applicants within the Canadian Immigration system Aylett, Alexander C. E.


This thesis is a comparative analysis of the legal discourse used in two Canadian immigration law cases, Chen v. MEI, (FC, 1991 ; FCA, 1993; SCC, 1995) and Parmjit Singh Mangat v. MEI , (FC, 1991), and the narrative literary discourse used in M.G. Vassanji's novel The In-Between World of Vikram hall. The focus of this analysis is the way in which each of these discourses discusses and evaluates the discretionary judgment of morality. It covers the history of the use of discretionary judgment in the Canadian immigrant selection process, its relationship to quantifiable methods of assessment, and the curtailment of two key discretionary sections - section 11(3) of the Immigration Act and item 9, "Personal Suitability," of the selection criteria used to assess Independent Immigrants - at the end of the twentieth century. It is argued that the form of the law limits its content and that the type of discourse chosen by the law fosters a hermeneutic method which makes impossible the discussion of non-economic considerations within these discretionary sections. This cuts those working within the law off from the larger non-economic aims of the Immigration Act itself. The legal preference for logical positivist discourse (and the narrow perception of immigrants, Canadians and Canadian society which results from it) is compared to the discourse used in a work of literature. The techniques both of writing and of reading literary narrative are evaluated in terms of their ability to discuss the issue of morality, and to create a framework within which non-quantifiable issues of this sort can be discussed. It is argued that literary narrative, because of the relationship that it establishes with its reader, and its ability to develop complex general concepts through the discussion of particular events, can provide a clearer picture of what is involved with discretionary judgment. Further, the ability of narrative discourse to articulate these principles and processes may indicate a use for narrative within immigration law itself. It could perhaps serve as a vehicle for legislation pertaining to these types of non-quantifiable assessment, criteria.

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