As part of a multi-part speaker series hosted by Dr. Amyn Sajoo at the Ismaili Centre Vancouver, Dr. Catherine Dauvergne, Dean of the Peter A. Allard School of Law at UBC, discussed issues surrounding migration, immigration policy and identity on April 6, 2019.

Dauvergne is the author of several books including Making People Illegal: What Globalization Means for Migration and Law.

“Canada accepts in excess of 300,000 people every year for permanent settlement,” said Dauvergne. The problem, she explained, is that most of these immigrants are economically “desirable,” while the country “is struggling to accept even a tenth of that as resettled or asylum seeking refugees.”

Dauvergne believes western societies preach but don’t often practice “open arms” in regards to new migrants looking to the lands of opportunity.

Sajoo and Dauvergne reflected on how settler societies such as Canada, the United States, and Australia have experienced a type of amnesia  in terms of their own migration origins. “These countries were made out of migration and now don’t wish to think of themselves as settler societies,” she continued.

The speakers deliberated over several reasons behind this phenomenon, from fears of potential loss of sovereignty, to the demise of multiculturalism and the birth of Islamophobia due to 9/11.

“There is a shocking, really horrifying, lack of understanding of Islamic culture and Islamic faith,” Dauvergne said.

She described how the term “diversity” has taken the place of multiculturalism because multiculturalism is hard to implement. “Genuine pluralism is extraordinary difficult. It requires an acceptance of the other as an equal even in the absence of understanding everything from them.”

After her discussion with Sajoo, Dauvergne told what she hopes to see going forward.

“We need to move away from the economic vs. human rights legal struggle and try to talk instead about migrants in terms that really focus on the human,” said Dauvergne, explaining how Germany opened its borders because it was the “human thing to do,” not because they had a legal obligation to do so.

“It brought more than one million people who had nowhere else to go into Germany at a time when it was completely plausible not to.”

Farhan Karim serves on the team that put the speaker series together and he was part of a diverse audience full of scholars, lawyers, students and members of various communities. 

“The opportunity to hear Dr. Dauvergne speak about the complexities of migration and its various legal frameworks while exploring the roots of global anxiety and identity really highlighted the role of the Ismaili Centre Vancouver as a venue of relevant and contemporary intellectual discovery,” said Karim.

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