Lines that Matter: Reading the Charter at the Canada-U.S. Border

Date created: 
Supreme Court of Canada
Legal geography
Securitization of migration
Post-9/11 North America

Border studies and critical geographies of the border have been influential at calling attention to the structures of power and limits to rights at border sites. In North America, significant research has been conducted investigating the US Department of Homeland Security and its role in the securitization of migration within the United States. In Canada, border studies has enjoyed a long history within academic discourse, but the border too often becomes simply a stand in for the US-Canada relationship. This thesis emerges from a desire to look at the border from the North, and to consider the processes and institutions undergirding border work in Canada. Specifically, I take as my focus Canadian courtrooms where judges and lawyers frame arguments and write decisions that place individuals in or out of a particular legal framing. I look to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as an important re-centering of the role of the judiciary. I ask: How do judges and lawyers make sense of the border as a legal space? And, what role does the Charter serve in that legal space-making? To answer these questions, I consider how judges and lawyers make brackets to organize and make sense of information that then defines a field of possible action. I look to three cases at the border that have been heard by the Supreme Court of Canada since the adoption of the Charter in 1982. Each of these cases represent a constitutional question based in the Charter. I use these three cases to offer a thorough accounting of border work considering customs work at the port of entry, and deportations that occur well within Canada. I argue that far away from public scrutiny, laws are dusted off, legal acrobatics are performed in courtrooms, and judges are making decisions that quietly change how borders function and how we understand borders as a legal space. My study of these courtrooms reveals that judges and lawyers are implicated in the work of making and effectuating borders.

Document type: 
This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes. Copyright remains with the author.
Senior supervisor: 
Nicholas Blomley
Environment: Department of Geography
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.