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Migration, Alterity and Discrimination: Media Discourse and its Implications for Health Outcomes in Syrian Newcomers to Canada


Recent migration from the Middle East and North Africa, Syria in particular, has led to increased media and governmental attention on the effect of migration in Canada. Jointly, the Canadian media and government construct migrant alterity by juxtaposing migrants as inherently different from Canadians. A Media Discourse Analysis of two newspapers in Canada elucidate three modalities through which migrants were Othered and used to justify their exclusion, surveillance, and the biosecuritization of the Canadian border. First, the Canadian state and media employ legal categories to distinguish between legitimate refugees from Syria and illegitimate asylum seekers from the U.S., while still characterizing both as potentially criminal and dangerous. Second, Islamophobic and xenophobic rhetoric categorize Muslim migrants as threats to Canadian national security and values by associating Islam with terrorism, fanaticism, and backwardness. Third, migrants are portrayed as burdens taking up Canadian space, resources, and finances, and putting Canadian welfare and health by potentially carrying disease. The Canadian state and media portray migrants as threat to Canadian health and its social, political, and economic structures through public health rhetoric to justify its biosecurity. In tandem, these three modalities frame migrants as Other and justify the Canadian government’s management of which migrant bodies are eligible to cross the border and socially and politically navigate the Canadian state. The media’s negative characterization of migrants creates a context of structural violence leading to discrimination, acculturative, and chronic stress in migrants, which can have implications for poor health outcomes in migrant populations.

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