Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Faculty of Human and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Jennifer Lavoie

Advisor Role


Second Advisor

Stacey Wilson-Forsberg

Advisor Role

Second Reader


Over the last few years, there has been an abundance of media articles published on irregular migrants (Msefer, 2017). While there is much research attention on media discourse on individual adult asylum seekers and refugee claimants, there is little research attention on how media portrays detained children and youth affected by immigration detention. A deductive content analysis of 35 Canadian newspaper articles published between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2019 was conducted to explore the media discourse of youth held in immigration detention. Social construction of social problems (SCSP, Best, 2017) theory focuses on the way people create an understanding of what occurs around them in relation to world issues. SCSP was used as a framework to guide analysis and interpret findings related to the claim that the detention of youth in Canada is a social problem. A broad range of claimsmakers contributed to various media sources to construct youth as deserving of sympathy. They are predominantly academics, safety ministers, and advocates. Results support that the media constructs migrant youth affected by detention as deserving of public sympathy through the following claimsmaking strategies: (1) victims suffering horribly, (2) victim purity, (3) cultural biases in sympathy evaluation, and (4) personalizing victims. The strategy of presenting the social problem as potentially occurring to anyone was not found. One counterclaim identified in the media portrayed youth as undeserving of sympathy by highlighting an instance involving a lack of innocence and the assertion that youth are used to take advantage of lenient immigration policies in Canada. Implications of these findings are considered in light of the broader research literature addressing media representations of children and youth affected by immigration detention.

Keywords: children, youth, immigration detention, media, Canada, social construction of social problems, content analysis

Convocation Year