Benevolent State, Law-Breaking Smugglers, and Deportable and Expendable Women: An Analysis of the Canadian State’s Strategy to Address Trafficking in Women

Sunera Thobani


The Canadian state undertook a major restructuring of the immigration and refugee program in the 1990s, committing itself to creating a new immigration act as part of this process. Trafficking is one major issue that the new act would concern itself with. In this paper I make the case that the state’s proposals for addressing trafficking enable the state to posit itself as responsible for protecting “Canadians” while carefully avoiding any responsibility for the wellbeing of women who are trafficked; demonize smugglers as the cause of trafficking; and override the concerns and interests of women who are trafficked by making deportation the only “solution” to their presence in Canada. Consequently, these proposals will further penalize the women, while protecting the interests of the Canadian men, women, and employers who profit and benefit from their exploitation. Further, while this approach does nothing to address the root causes of trafficking, the state’s enthusiasm for increasing trade liberalization will only exacerbate these very causes.

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