Vincent Wong

PhD Candidate
Vincent Wong photo
Dissertation Title
Structuring and Silencing Unfree Migrant Labour: Racial Capitalism and the Nightmare of Canada’s “Dreamers”

Vincent Wong joined the University of Windsor Faculty of Law as an Assistant Professor in 2022. He is also a PhD Candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School, where his dissertation focuses on racial capitalism and the processes that produce and structure unfree status-excluded labour in Canada. He serves on the board of the Community Justice Collective (Tkaronto). Vincent holds a Bachelor of Commerce and Juris Doctor from the University of Toronto and a Master of Laws from Columbia Law School, where he was a Human Rights Fellow and James Kent Scholar. Professor Wong’s research focuses in law and political economy – specifically at the nexus between migration, race, markets, and the law. He is particularly interested in how a Canadian context-specific critical race theory (CRT) can better inform and be informed by the practice of anti-racist and intersectional movement lawyering. Professor Wong is also interested in what critical frameworks of law and political economy have to offer in the context of understanding the emerging hub of the 21st century global economic order: China. Prior to academia, Professor Wong worked as a Staff Lawyer at the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic and Secretary of the Chinese Canadian National Council - Toronto Chapter. He has also previously held positions at the International Human Rights Program at the University of Toronto and the African American Policy Forum.


My primary research question considers to what extent the contemporary structuring of status-excluded labour in Canada is a continuation (or a discontinuation) of the ways in which racialized migrant labour has been structured in the past.

In attempting to tackle this question, the broader issue that I wish to contribute understanding to is how the logics and processes of racialization, colonialism, and capitalism – operating through institutional sites of immigration, education, and labour law and policies – create and reproduce economic and educational inequities for status-excluded residents, thereby reinforcing racialized, unequal and segregated labour market conditions in Canada. This serves as an intervention into existing literature on status-excluded communities in Canada, which I argue even when sympathetic, typically adopt a liberal human rights lens that is disconnected from the historical use of immigration law and mobility governance as a key tool in racial capitalist accumulation.

The proposed dissertation will begin by introducing the contemporary predicament of status-excluded communities in Canada as well as a brief summary of the literature review in this space. It will argue for a shift from the popular lexicon of “undocumented”, “non-status”, and “illegal migrant” to “status-excluded” communities to foreground the legal production and withholding of immigration status and hence, access to rights and resources. Moving to a discourse of status-exclusion in immigration law also helps us more easily draw connections and influences between the contemporary situation and historical formations of political status-exclusion and mobility restriction, where terms like “undocumented” were generally not in widespread usage.

The dissertation will then move on to introducing the historical and theoretical context by which we can more accurately understand the production of status-excluded migrant labour in Canada. It attempts to do this by revisiting the historical development of Canadian migration law through the lens of “imperial (im)mobilities” in order to synergize insights from the literature on racial capitalism with the literature on migration and colonialism.

The next two chapters go further into describing how the interaction between the institutional sites of immigration, education, and labour are operationalized to produce and manage status-excluded labour in the current multicultural era of formal racial neutrality in law and policy. One chapter explores the commonalities and differences between the parallel productions of two hyperexploitable labour pools through immigration law: temporary foreign worker programs and status-excluded labour. The other chapter critically examines the role of Canadian educational institutions as predatory sites of neocolonial wealth transfer through exploitative and widely disparate international student tuition fees – a mechanism that increasingly underwrites and bankrolls the modern Canadian education sector, particularly at a post-secondary level, and acts as a key catalyst in the school pushout to precarious labour pipeline that is characteristic of the migrant youth experience in Canada.

Finally, the concluding chapter will look at the possibilities that emerge from a racial capitalist and decolonial understanding of the subordinated position of status-excluded communities in Canada. It will survey strategies of resistance that have been organized in the past: from predominantly liberal human rights interventions to more radical migrant justice movement building. It will also articulate some thoughts on what intersectional, anti-racist, and anti-capitalist forms of migrant justice that are active and alive to Indigenous sovereignty may look like and how they may build on historical antecedents.

Interspersed within these chapters will be the results of qualitative and quantitative surveys and interviews I plan to conduct with status-excluded residents and their families, policymakers, administrators, academics, migrant activists, and other stakeholders.