Governing Global Aeromobility

Canada and Airport Refugee Claimants in the 1980s

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Bret Edwards University of Toronto

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This article surveys Canada’s regulatory response to global aeromobility in the late twentieth century. It examines the Canadian state’s strategies to restrict the movement of refugee claimants landing at airports during the 1980s and the national discourse around this process. Mass air travel enabled more refugees, particularly from the Global South, to travel to Canada and, in the process, challenged how the country governed aerial and cosmopolitan populations. In response, Canadian authorities erected an enforcement regime at the country’s international airports, which transformed them into contested entry points to national space and normative citizenship where links between mobility, borders, and nation were simultaneously reinforced and contested. This article thus provides an integral case study of national ambivalence toward global aeromobility in the late twentieth century.

Contributor Notes

Bret Edwards is a PhD candidate in history at the University of Toronto. He is currently finishing his dissertation on mass air travel and the making of modern airports in late twentieth-century Canada. He has published on airports and aeromobility in Mobility in History, Toronto Review of Books, and with Active History. E-mail:

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Interdisciplinary Journal of Mobility Studies