Negotiating Citizenship: Migrant Women in Canada and the Global System
Contains Bibliography, Index
Margaret Kechnie is head of the Women’s Studies Program at Laurentian
University. She is the co-editor of Changing Lives: Women in Northern
Ontario, and the author of Organizing Rural Women: The Federating
Women's Institutes of Ontario, 1897–1919.
With the United States Congress locked in heated debate over the state
of migrant workers, this book is an important contribution to an
understanding of Canada’s treatment of migrant women. Central to the
author’s point of view is that, even though the global movement of
workers is widespread and has been for generations, states continue to
exploit such workers. In fact, such workers have much to offer the host
countries as they attempt to improve their own living conditions and
those of their children. Why they are invited here, what their lives and
working conditions are once in Canada, and the conditions under which
they are granted citizenship are important aspects of this study.
Chapter 5 deals with the particular problems of foreign domestic
workers, who are often sought by middle- and upper-class working
families. These women are some of the most exploited workers in Canada.
Though they enter the country legally, they work under conditions in
private households where workers’ rights remain unprotected or
unregulated, and are often denied the protection enjoyed by other
Chapter 6 focuses on the issues that face nurses of colour. During the
1960s, Canada began importing nurses from developing countries as part
of its strategy to curb rising health costs and to address the shortage
of nurses. Nurses from Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean created a
multiracial nursing workforce, but that did nothing to ameliorate a
pattern of systemic racism that nurses faced in terms of hiring,
promotion, supervision, work assignment, relationships with co-workers
and patients, and disciplinary practices.
While the authors document the problems faced by migrant workers in
Canada, they also outline the courageous resolve these women have shown
in challenging unjust laws that threaten to imprison domestic workers or
to limit career opportunities for nurses. Negotiating Citizenship is a
book that should be read if for no other reason than to remind ourselves
that our attention to the needs of migrant workers has many parallels
with the debates in the United States.