Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography & Environmental Studies


Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Dr. Alison Mountz

Advisor Role

Dissertation supervisor


This thesis explores Canadian responses towards unexpected arrivals of asylum seekers at their borders. Grounded in critical and feminist geopolitics, it aims to unveil hidden and concealed policies that are implemented behind a narrative of humanitarianism. In particular, it takes the land border crossings from the US to Canada that occurred after the implementation of restrictive asylum policies in the US in 2017 and following years. Although migratory movements can be attributed to several factors, this displacement was triggered by Trump’s anti-immigrant narratives and policies aimed to decrease refugee and immigrant arrivals to their territory.

The dissertation’s central argument is that Canada’s bordering practices rely on an invisible/visible dichotomy to restrict asylum seekers arrivals at territorial limits. This thesis explores how Canada’s border restrictions and policy often act through means that invisibilize the border, through tactics of (un)provision, neglect, and selectivity. I argue that these factors restrict in important ways refugee claimants’ experiences and identities, and human mobility in general. I also explore how these dynamics temporarily shift in times of crisis when the Canadian government visibilizes the border as a way to maintain the state narrative of protecting its integrity. I argue that these particular responses are directed to a specific audience: the electorate and the Parliament.

Throughout this project, I jump scales to demonstrate how the invisible border is particularly found in localized spaces, like refugee centers. In particular, I offer insights into how local organizations adapted the ways in which they offered services to refugee claimants, after Canada’s government provided an insufficient response towards refugee protection and settlement needs. I also explore how invisible Canadian bordering practices play out in more personal and intimate spaces: refugee claimants’ identities. I discuss this by analyzing Canadian categorization practices based on colonial perceptions of refugees. This research produced empirical and comprehensive examination on how different scales intertwine in asylum policy.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season