Law and Legal Studies Research Spotlight

The Department of Law and Legal Studies’ Research Spotlight Series highlights our faculty members’ innovative research grants and projects.

In this post, we feature the research of Megan Gaucher, Associate Professor, Department of Law and Legal Studies, Carleton University. Dr. Gaucher’s interdisciplinary research focuses on the intersections between citizenship, family, and belonging in Canadian immigration and refugee law, policy, and politics.

A Researcher is Born

Professor Megan Gaucher

At their 2018 Party convention in Halifax, the Conservative Party of Canada – in an effort to take a stand against birth tourism – narrowly passed a non-binding resolution to refuse automatic citizenship to children born on Canadian soil unless one of the parents is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.  While acquiring jus solis citizenship is completely legal and the actual practice of birth tourism is statistically low, non-resident mothers accused of engaging in birth tourism are framed as “queue jumpers” taking advantage of Canadian generosity and undermining the value of Canadian birthright citizenship. Such calls to restrict or eliminate birthright citizenship, however, rest on very little empirical information about the prevalence and dynamics of birth tourism in Canada. Who is the birth tourist? How prevalent is birth tourism? What are the motivations for engaging in birth tourism? And most importantly, how is the practice of birth tourism (both perceived and actual) implicated within broader conversations about borders, citizenship and the Canadian family?

It is questions like these that drive associate professor Megan Gaucher’s work. A political scientist by training, her interdisciplinary research focuses on contemporary debates in Canadian immigration and refugee law, policy and politics, specifically the intersections between family, citizenship and security. She studies the state’s role in familial formation and the regulation of intimate relationships in the name of border control; the operationalization of heteropatriarchal, racialized, settler-colonial narratives of family to police migrants and reinforce Canada’s physical and ideological borders; and the ways in which citizens, partial citizens, and non-citizens negotiate these parameters.

As Gaucher explains, “I am motivated by questions of citizenship and belonging, and my research agenda helps to explain how narratives of ‘who belongs’ – as manifested in legislative discussions around marriage fraud, family reunification, and birth tourism, among others – are both constructed and reproduced in socio-legal spaces.”

A Family Matter

Her book A Family Matter: Citizenship, Conjugal Relationships and Canadian Immigration Policy (UBC Press, 2018) documents the inconsistent treatment of conjugality in Canadian immigration policy and politics, contending that changes to family reunification programs are driven primarily by family form, not by family function. As a result, the provision of entry is pre-determined by state conceptions of family, care and interdependency aimed at preserving a specific conceptualization of family “fit” for Canadian citizenship. A Family Matter was shortlisted for the 2018 Donald Smiley Prize (CPSA) and received Honourable Mention for the 2020 Seymour Martin Lipset Prize (APSA). Gaucher has also published articles in Canadian Journal of Political Science, Canadian Ethnic Studies, International Journal of Canadian Studies and Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State & Society, among others.

Current Research

In addition to her Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) funded research on birth tourism, Gaucher is currently working on two other major research projects. The first project is a SSHRC-funded examination of migrant workers’ experiences with Canada’s family reunification process, focusing specifically on how familial bonds are evaluated in Canadian jurisprudence. “Current conceptualizations of care used by legislative and quasi-legislative bodies to evaluate family reunification claims,” Gaucher explains, “fail to account for the complex transnational and often non-linear realities of care embodied by migrant workers and their families.” The second project maps socio-legal constructions of single male migrants throughout Canada’s immigration history, exploring how gendered and racialized narratives of belonging frame the single male migrant as someone that is both celebrated and feared.

For Gaucher, her interdisciplinary and collaborative research agenda is undoubtedly inspired by her surroundings – “I feel incredibly lucky to be doing this work in a department and faculty that fosters cross-disciplinary networks, surrounded by colleagues who are constantly exposing me to new and exciting areas of socio-legal research, and with amazing graduate students who are bringing their knowledge and enthusiasm to every single project.”

More about Megan Gaucher

You can find out more about Dr. Megan Gaucher’s research, publications and more on his Faculty Profile page.