New research tool designed to shed light on Canadian immigration policymaking during pandemic

Maggie tracker launch

Since the global pandemic began in early 2020, Canada, like most governments around the world, took unprecedented action to protect society from the spread of COVID-19 while also keeping the economy intact. Among its many emergency measures implemented during the pandemic, Canada closed its borders to reduce movement while treating different groups unevenly. The Canada Excellence Research Chair in Migration and Integration program at Toronto Metropolitan University launches a new research tool to help analysts evaluate the complex and often ad hoc period of policymaking in Canada during this time.

The COVID 19 Immigration Policy Tracker, external link, developed by CERC Migration researcher Maggie Perzyna, codifies almost 400 administrative actions related to borders and immigration that were implemented by the Canadian government since January 2020. Users can search the Tracker for policies based on the issuing department or agency, the type of administrative action (directives, legislation, program change), and the immigration category (refugees, family class, international student), or they can search the database by keywords.

The years of the pandemic have been a complex time when the federal government had to face difficult choices. But how effective were policies over this period? Could different measures have been put in place? What is the legacy of this emergency period of abrupt policymaking? Academics will search for answers for many years to come and, thanks to this new research tool developed by CERC Migration, this task will be much easier.

“The COVID 19 Immigration Policy Tracker is designed to help researchers establish a comprehensive view of an area of policy,” said Perzyna. “As a researcher, it is difficult to see themes and trends when investigating a large number of documents. I hope policymakers, scholars, even the media and the public, can use the Tracker to drill down on an area of interest and gain a perspective that would not be possible, otherwise.”

Perzyna not only built the Tracker but also used it in her own research. Leading a team of CERC Migration researchers, Perzyna and her co-authors recently authored a Working Paper, “Immigration policy ‘on the fly’: A critical review of two years of pandemic policymaking in Canada” (forthcoming.)

“Maggie’s work leading the development of the Tracker and the subsequent analysis provides a great example of the important and innovative work of the CERC Migration team,” said Anna Triandafyllidou, the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Migration and Integration. “The COVID-19 pandemic has been a once-in-a-century occurrence that we have much to learn from, and this Tracker will help us to do so.”

About the Tracker

The COVID 19 Immigration Policy Tracker can be accessed at https://immigrationpolicytracker.ca/, external link. The database references policy instruments implemented since January 2020 and continues to accept new entries. The data for the Tracker was collected from publicly available sources, including government press releases, notices and departmental websites, and supplemented by news articles and academic journals. These were identified and indexed by CERC Migration staff with the help of research assistants. Feedback forms on every entry page will enable additional crowdsourcing input. It is expected that the site will continue to expand with new data as more users engage with the tool.

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