Why History and Language Matter in Migrant Inclusion: Policies Shaping Gendered Transnational Migration and Access to Linguistically Accessible Services for First Generation Korean-Canadian Immigrant Women

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How Transnational Family Structures Have Been Normalized Through Canada’s Immigration Policies

The Korean kirogi gajok (“wild geese”) split family structure is reflective not only of family agency in leveraging transnational capital, but also of its continued production by Canada’s immigration policies. The foundations of the White settler colonial state have been built by creating transnational split families, permitting entry for only the labourer but not his family (Boyko, 2008).

Chinese Immigration Act, 1885

Chinese immigration certificates © Government of Canada/Library and Archives Canada/R1206–178-X-E.

Gendered Structures of Education Migration

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Creating Social Margins: The “Othering” of Racialized Immigrants Through Canada’s Language Policies

Prior to World War II, the Canadian government dismissed the value of cultural heterogeneity and considered ethnic diversity a threat to national cohesion. It was only after the influx of European immigrants post-World War II, however, that Canada began considering the status of “other” ethnic groups within the nation (Meyerhoff, 1994). As globalization accelerated and immigration to Canada increased in flow, discrimination based on race and ethnicity became less explicit. Rather, it became more implicitly articulated — now, through language.

Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, 1963

Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism (courtesy Duncan Cameron / Library and Archives Canada / PA-037463)
Mounties at Montreal Grand Prix © Jdazuelos/Dreamstime

Canadian Multiculturalism Act, 1988

The shift in political discourse from assimilation of immigrants to integration led to the Canadian Multiculturalism Act (CMA) enacted by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. This Act was the first one of its kind on a global scale in recognizing multiculturalism as a fundamental characteristic of national identity (Berry, 2020). Though it promoted “full and equitable participation of individuals and communities of all origins… [and] the elimination of any barrier to that participation”, the Act simultaneously called for the “strengthening [of] the status and use of the official languages of Canada” (Government of Canada, 1985).

Policy Recommendations to Advance Gender and Language Justice for Korean-Canadian Immigrant Mothers

Through political processes of normalizing transnational family structures and removing responsibility for cultural inclusion from the state, Canada has created an oppressive societal system in which Korean-Canadian immigrant mothers are stranded with multiple burdens. Upon immigration to Canada via a systemically imposed “splitting” of the family, Korean mothers are unable to seek efficient support in mental health care due to the linguistic inaccessibility of government resources and services. This linguistic injustice is thoroughly ingrained throughout the system via a century’s worth of policies, making it impossible for newly immigrated Korean mothers to receive adequate mental health services.


Berry, D. (2020, March 25). Canadian Multiculturalism Act. Retrieved from April 9, 2021, from https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/canadian-multiculturalism-act



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