Since the early 20th century refugees have possessed strategic value by virtue of their country of origin and the inherently political nature of the acceptance of refugees. Historically, as the definition of “desirable” and “undesirable” citizens changes, so too does Canadian immigration policy. Investigating the sociopolitical climate in which refugees are situated today, this paper outlines theories concerning the nation-state, human rights, and power. These conceptual issues are then applied to a case study of media discourse surrounding the MV Sun Sea, a ship transporting over 400 Tamil asylum seekers to Canada in August of 2010. The analysis of three Canadian newspapers concluded that the event was captured as a “smuggling event” with dominant frames of asylum seekers as illegal, a danger, and a threat to law and order. Congruently, the MV Sun Sea fuelled a moral panic surrounding Canadian European identity and sovereignty. I also argue that this event was an impetus to the Conservative government legislating the mandatory detention of refugees that arrive via ship to Canada.
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Thesis advisor: Gruneau, Richard
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