Temporary Families? the Parent and Grandparent Sponsorship Program and the Neoliberal Regime of Immigration Governance in Canada

  • Xiaobei Chen Carleton University
  • Sherry Xiaohan Thorpe Carleton University


The Canadian government has introduced a series of policy changes to various immigration programs since 2008. This paper focuses on the revamping of the parent and grandparent (PGP) sponsorship program and the introduction of new measures such as the Super Visa. Using Foucauldian analytical tools and drawing on Bacchi’s (2009, 2012) method of studying policy as problematizations, we first historicize the problematization of the family in immigration policy. Second, we refute the government’s representation of immigration under the PGP program problems as essentially a transparent “problem of math,” that of too many applicants overwhelming the system. Finally, we analyze neoliberal technologies of immigration governance and their impact on citizenship formation and struggles. Who counts as family, we argue, has been biopolitically determined in Canadian immigration policy. Family members are recognized as such when it suits the needs of the state. The latest changes in family sponsorship policies objectify potential parents and grandparents reunification applicants, seeing them as human liabilities that pose risks to the Canadian population because of their advanced age. The new measures deploy a neoliberal regime of governance that discriminatorily responsibilizes the family, marketizes regulation, and maximizes the state’s control of the border and of the population. 


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Author Biographies

Xiaobei Chen, Carleton University

Associate Professor
Department of Sociology and Anthropology

Sherry Xiaohan Thorpe, Carleton University

M.A. student
Department of Sociology and Anthropology


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