The Impermanence of Permanence

Completed 2019. Funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Partnership Development Grant #890-2013-0043

Project Name:

The Impermanence of Permanence: The Precarious Legal Status of Refugees in Canada


Antje Ellermann (PI)


Research Assistants:

Geoffrey Underhill, Stewart Prest, Agustín Goenaga, Tania Sawicki Mead, Yana Gorokhovskaia, Sandra Schinnerl


Funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Partnership Development Grant #890-2013-0043

Project Summary:

This project examines the cessation of refugee status in Canada in order to investigate shifting meanings of “permanent residence.” Permanent residency has been traditionally understood as a “permanent status,” cementing and securing a former refugee’s place in Canada and altering their previously precarious legal status. Cessation is a procedure to strip refugee status from an individual who is found to no longer be in need of protection. In 2012, the Canadian government enacted changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that allowed for the stripping of permanent residency status as a result of cessation. As a result, applications for cessation of refugee status made by the Canadian government have markedly increased.

This study seeks to examine the implications of these changes for the lived experiences of refugees in Canada, in particular understandings of “permanent residence.”  I argue that cessation policy  has made the category of “refugee” simultaneously less stable yet more permanent. Refugee status, intended as a temporary category of status, effectively becomes instead a quasi-permanent status: it is not permanent, because it can be revoked. But it is not temporary either because as awareness of cessation increases, refugees consider the pursuit of citizenship as too risky. Permanent residency thus has become so fragile that it no longer supersedes refugee status, even where refugees have lived as permanent residents in Canada for many years. Instead, the revocation of their old refugee status deprives them of all the rights associated with permanent settlement.

Data and Method:

The study draws on two sources of data. First, the study relies on secondary data sources such as government reports, media accounts, and court records. As a second source of data, we  conducted semi-structured interviews in Vancouver with social and political elites – NGOs, lawyers, and government officials – as well as with immigrants subject to cessation. 

Research Output:

Ellermann, Antje and Yana Gorokhovskaia, “The Impermanence of Permanence: The Rise of Probationary Immigration in Canada, International Migration (Early View)