Age & Generation in Canada’s Migration Law, Policy, & Programming


Christina Clark-Kazak, York University

[RRN/CRS Policy Brief Submitted to the Government of Canada, December 2, 2016]

Executive Summary

Age and generation are central to forced migration experiences and processes for several reasons. First, different demographic profiles exist in different migration contexts, with age issues factoring into migration decisions and policymaking. Second, people at different stages of the life course may have differential experiences of migration for biological and/or socially constructed reasons. Third, in multicultural migration contexts, generational power relations are dynamic, and the socially constructed meanings and roles ascribed to different stages in the life cycle may change. In addition, migration may change familial patterns of child-rearing and elder care. In recognition of the multiple ways in which age and generation intersect with other power relations in contexts of forced migration, UNHCR has developed and applied age, gender, and diversity mainstreaming in its policy and programming. However, national governments do not have similar age mainstreaming strategies. This paper will draw on the UNHCR experiences, and current practices under Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) and its regulations, to propose ways in which age and generation could be more effectively mainstreamed into Canada’s migration policy and programming.


Over ten years ago, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) adopted the Age, Gender, and Diversity Mainstreaming (AGDM) strategy. As chair of the UNHCR’s Executive Committee, Canada could lead in implementing a similar strategy at the national level, building on its international reputation on gender issues.

  1. In line with evidence from a variety of migration contexts, as well as international organizations such as UNICEF, the Government of Canada should move beyond chronology to adopt more holistic definitions of age that take into account social relationships and practices.
  2. The Government of Canada should undertake a systematic age analysis of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) and its regulations to identify and correct age-based discrepancies and discrimination.
  3. In all future policy, programming, and law, the Government of Canada should undertake a systematic age analysis in order to better mainstream age issues in migration decisions. This involves the systematic collection of age-disaggregated data; localized understandings of social markers of aging; analysis of the differential impact of migration due to biological and/or chronological and/or social age; attention to generational division of labour; and understanding of intra- and intergenerational relationships. Checklists and other programmatic tools should be developed to assist with these analyses.
The full policy brief can be downloaded HERE.

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