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Adrian A. Smith

Labour law scholars, in their attempts to revitalize the practice and study of their discipline, have recently turned toward the study of development. This chapter interrogates this turn, drawing on Amartya Sen’s human freedoms or capability approach, as well as on the political economic foundations of labour migration, understood through an anti-racist, historical materialist lens. Sen provides a means to address the regulation of temporary international labour migration, which has re-emerged in the early twenty-first century, representing a serious challenge for labour law and development enthusiasts. The development project has also faced trenchant criticisms for its unwillingness to deploy the concepts of ‘race,’ racialization and racism to explain power, privilege, exclusion, differential inclusion and inequality. The production of ‘migrant labour,’ in particular, cannot be explained without a consideration of how these socio-historical processes and practices of differentiated belonging are informed by racialization and racism. The chapter constructs a Polanyi-esque account of the efforts to dis-embed and re-embed development theory within wider ethical, equity and socio-historical considerations. It discusses transnational labour regulation, focusing on the project of ‘migration management.’. Through a case study on south-north labour migration to Canada, it turns attention to the global racialized class differentiations reproduced through migrant labour regulatory regimes. Foreign labour is rendered racialized, unfree and migrant, productive labouring bodies with a deep reliance on transnationalized production. The chapter’s underlying premise is that the racialized nature of temporary labour migration to Canada and elsewhere is not an historical accident, coincidence or twist of fate. The trajectory of these racialized class dynamics extends back at least to the commencement of new world enslavement and yet it also invites the possibilities of collective resistance struggles of which the Haitian Revolution provides the paradigmatic example.
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Dayna Nadine Scott and Adrian A Smith

A controversial proposal to build the mammoth ‘Site C’ dam on the Peace River in northwestern Canada offers an opportunity to explore the intersections of climate and migration issues under debate in international environmental governance circles. Site C threatens to flood traditional fishing spots and traplines of Indigenous peoples in the name of the ‘green energy’ economy. We consider how people displaced by renewable energy projects justified as climate mitigation policies might constitute a different kind of ‘climate refugee’ in that they are ‘displaced without moving’ – the connections between the land and the people are severed to the extent that what is lost is the ability of the people to sustain themselves in a place. We demonstrate that the focus on ‘security’ and ‘risk’ in dominant approaches to the phenomenon of climate migration within the international regimes of human rights and climate governance produces contemporary commitments to ‘migration management’ and a prescription for ‘planned relocations’ that employ an abstract conception of the ‘climate migrant’. The analysis reveals that the dominant international legal order on climate migration is devoid of meaningful consideration of ongoing, embodied practices of living on the land. Its abstract, universalist conceptions of land, labour and livelihoods deny the possibility of people's meaningful relations with specific places and obscure the actual ‘loss and damage’ that transpires when real, material and ecological relations that ground people's connections with land are severed. We conclude that, without concerted resistance and a focus on re-making the underlying structural relations, a policy emphasis on renewable energy development as ‘climate mitigation’ is likely to continue to produce the same inequitable patterns of benefits and burdens as climate change itself.