#WelcomeRefugees: A Critical Discourse Analysis of the Refugee Resettlement Initiative in Canadian News

Manar Mustafa, Zahariah Pilus


This study focuses on the frames utilized in the depiction of Syrian refugees and social and political actors involved in the Syrian resettlement in Canadian online news media. The role of the media is vital in portraying Syrian refugees' image and affects how the Canadian public perceives them. This paper focuses on utilizing the referential and predicational strategies introduced by the Discourse-Historical Approach (DHA) in framing the Syrian refugees, Liberal government, Conservative party, Canadians, and Canada (henceforth social and political actors). This study examines a total of 31 articles selected from three of the most visited Canadian news sites, namely, the Toronto Star, the Toronto Sun, and the National Post. News articles were collected beginning from the arrival of the first group of refugees in December 2015 and ending in March 2017, which marked the first anniversary of the refugees’ arrival. The results obtained show that both liberal and conservative-leaning media utilized frames in ways that correspond with their ideological stance. In most cases, the limelight rarely focused on Syrian refugees. Instead, they were used as props to push the news source's ideological convictions and to condemn and shame the opposition. Therefore, it is understood, that the framing and portrayal of refugees in this narrow manner through discursive strategies obscures the complexity of the plight of Syrian refugees and depicts them as one-dimensional characters that audiences would either fear or pity.


Syrian refugees; critical discourse analysis; framing; Canadian online news media

Full Text:



Agrawal, K. S. (2019). Canadian Refugee Sponsorship Programs: Experience of Syrian Refugees in Alberta, Canada. Journal of International Migration and Integration, 20, 941–962 (2019).

Amer, M. (2017). Critical discourse analysis of war reporting in the international press: the case of the Gaza war of 2008–2009. Palgrave Communications, 3(1), 1-

Atkins, P. (2017). ‘And it began by naming them’: a critical analysis of the discourse of refugees in the Mass Observation diaries 1939-40, compared to that of their

counterparts in modern Britain. Unpublished Master Thesis. University of Sussex, United Kingdom.

Bangarth, S. (2019). Canada’s Complicated History of Refugee Reception. In D. Ross (Ed.), Confronting Canadian Migration History. (pp. 9-16) Toronto: Pressbooks.

Beaudoin, J., Danch, J., & Rehaag, S. (2015). No Refuge: Hungarian Romani Refugee Claimants in Canada. Osgoode Legal Studies, 11(3), 1–58.

Boese, M. (2009). Exploring Economism in Migration Policy And Research, TASA Conference, 1st - 4th December, Canberra.

Bongelli, R., Riccioni, I., Zuczkowski, A. (2013). Certain-Uncertain, True-False, Good-Evil in Italian Political Speeches. In: I. Poggi, F. D’Errico, L. Vincze, A. Vinciarelli

(Eds.) Multimodal Communication in Political Speech. Shaping Minds and Social Action. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol. 7688. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

Bradimore, A., & Bauder, H. (2011). Mystery Ships and Risky Boat People: Tamil Refugee Migration in the Newsprint Media. Canadian Journal of Communication,

(4), 637– 661.

Coleman, C. L., & Dysart, E. V. (2005). Framing of Kennewick man against the backdrop of a scientific and cultural controversy. Science Communication, 27, 3–26.

Department of Justice. (2016). Preliminary Examination of so-called "Honour Killings" in Canada. Retrieved 13, February 2018 from https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-

pr/cj- jp/fv-vf/hk-ch/p2.html

El-Refaie, E. (2001). Metaphors We Discriminate By: Naturalized Themes in Austrian Newspaper Articles About Asylum Seekers. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 5(3),


Entman, R. M. (1993). Framing toward clarification of a fractured paradigm. Journal of Communication. 4(43), 51-58.

Esses, V. M., Medianu, S., & Lawson, A. S. (2013). Uncertainty, Threat, and the Role of the Media in Promoting the Dehumanization of Immigrants and Refugees.

Journal of Social Issues, 69(3), 518-536.

Esser, F., & D’Angelo, P. (2003). Framing the press and the publicity process: A content analysis of meta-coverage in campaign 2000 network news. American

Behavioral Scientist, 46, 617–641.

Fairclough, N. (2001). Language and Power. London: Routledge.

Fairclough, I., & Mădroane, I. D. (2014). An argumentative perspective on framing. Policy conflict, deliberation and framing in the Roşia Montană case. Paper

presented at the 8th Conference of the International Society for the Study of Argumentation. 1-3 July.

Fillmore, C. J. (1975). An alternative to checklist theories of meaning. In C. Cogen (Ed.), Proceedings of the First Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics

Society (123-131). Berkeley: Berkeley Linguistics Society.

Fowler, R. & Kress, G. (1979). Critical linguistics. In R. Fowler, B. Hodge, G. Kress & T. Trew (Eds.). Language and control (pp. 185-213). London: Routledge.

Gilbert, L. (2013). The Discursive Production of a Mexican Refugee Crisis in Canadian Media and Policy. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 39(5), 827-843.

Goatly, A. (2007). Discourse approaches to politics, society and culture: Vol. 23. Washing the brain: Metaphor and hidden ideology. Amsterdam: John Benjamins

Publishing Company.

Goffman, E. (1974). Frame Analysis. An Essay on the Organization of Experience. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.

Griffith, A. (2015). Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote. Washington: Anar Press.

Hagan, J. (2001). Northern Passage: American Vietnam War Resisters in Canada. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Hanson-Easey, S., Augoustinos, M., & Moloney, G. (2014). ‘They’re All Tribals’: Essentialism, Context and the Discursive Representation of Sudanese Refugees.

Discourse & Society, 25(3), 362–382.

Hart, C. (2011). Force-Interactive Patterns in Immigration Discourse: A Cognitive Linguistic Approach to CDA. Discourse & Society, 22 (3), 269-286.

Hier, S. P., & Greenberg, J, L. (2002). Constructing a discursive crisis: Risk, problematization and illegal Chinese in Canada. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 25(3), 490–513.

Johnston, T. (2016). The Securitization of Refugees: A Critical Media Discourse Analysis of the Reporting on Syrian Refugees in Canada. Unpublished Masters

Thesis. Ryerson University, Canada.

Kelly-Gagnon, M., & Geloso, V. (2013). Who Spends More: Left or Right?. Montreal Economic Institute. Retrieved 19, February 2018 from


Khosravinik, M. (2009). The Representation of Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Immigrants in British Newspapers During the Balkan Conflict (1999) and the British

General Election (2005). Discourse & Society, 20(4), 477–498.

Khosravinik, M. (2010). The Representation of Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Immigrants in British Newspapers: A critical Discourse Analysis. Journal of Language

and Politics, 9(1), 1–28.

KhosraviNik, M. (2014). Immigration Discourses and Critical Discourse Analysis: Dynamics of World Events and Immigration Representations in the British Press. In C.

Hart & P. Cap (Eds.). Contemporary Critical Discourse Studies (pp.501-519). London and New York: Bloomsbury Academic.

Lakoff, G. (2004). Don’t Think of an Elephant! Know your values and frame the debate. The essential guide for progressives. Chelsea Green Publishing: Vermont, USA.

Lawton, R. (2013). Speak English or Go Home: The Anti-Immigrant Discourse of the American ‘English Only’ Movement. Critical Approaches to Discourse Analysis

Across Disciplines, 7 (1): 100 –122.

Leudar, I., Hayes, J., Nekvapil, J., & Baker, T. J. (2008). Hostility Themes in Media, Community and Refugee Narratives. Discourse & Society, 19(2), 187–221.

Lynn, N., & Lea, S. (2003). `A Phantom Menace and the New Apartheid’: The Social Construction of Asylum-Seekers in the United Kingdom. Discourse & Society,

(4), 425–452.

Mahtani, M. (2001). Representing minorities: Canadian media and minority identities. Canadian Ethnic Studies, 33(3), 99–133.

Matthes, J., & Kohring, M. (2008).The Content Analysis of Media Frames: Toward Improving Reliability and Validity. Journal of Communication, (58)2, 258-279.

Medianu, S., Sutter, A., & Esses, V. (2015). The Portrayal of Refugees in Canadian Newspapers: The Impact of the Arrival of Tamil Refugees by Sea in 2010.

IdeAs: Idées d’Amériques, (6), 1–15.

Muhammedi, S. (2015). Lessons Learned from the Ugandan Asian Refugees. Active History. Retrieved 12, January 2016 from http://activehistory.ca/2015/09/political-


News Media Canada. (2015). Circulation Report: Daily Newspapers 2015. Retrieved 20 July 2019 from https://nmc-mic.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/2015-Daily-

Newspaper- Circulation-Report-REPORT_FINAL.pdf

Oudshoorn, A., Benbow, S., & Meyer, M. (2020). Resettlement of Syrian Refugees in Canada. Journal of International Migration and Integration, 21, 893–908.

Parker, S. (2015). ‘Unwanted Invaders’: The Representation of Refugees and Asylum Seekers in the UK and Australian Print Media. ESharp, (23), 1–21.

Pearce, J. M., & Stockdale, J. E. (2008). UK Responses to the Asylum Issue: A Comparison of Lay and Expert Views. Journal of Community and Applied Social

Psychology, 19(2), 142–155.

Powell, J. (2005). Encyclopaedia of North American Immigration. New York: Facts on File, Inc.

Reisigl, M. (2007). Discrimination in Discourse. In H. Kotthoff & H. Spencer- Oatey (Eds.), Handbook of Intercultural Communication (pp. 365-394). Berlin: Walter

De Gruyter Gmbh & Co.

Reisigl, M., & Wodak, R. (2009). The discourse-historical approach. In R. Wodak & M. Meyer (Eds.), Methods of critical discourse analysis (2nd ed., pp. 87–121).

London, UK: Sage.

Reitmanova, S., Gustafson, D. L., & Ahmed, R. (2015). “Immigrants Can Be Deadly”: Critical Discourse Analysis of Racialization of Immigrant Health in the Canadian

Press and Public Health Policies. Canadian Journal of Communication, 40(3), 471–487.

Ritchie, J., Lewis, J., & Elam, G. (2003). Designing and Selecting Samples. In Ritchie, J. & Lewis, J. (Eds.). Qualitative Research Practice A Guide for Social Science

Students And Researchers (pp. 77-108). London: SAGE Publications.

Salahshour, N. (2017). Representation of Immigrants in New Zealand Print Media: A critical discourse analysis. Unpublished Doctoral Thesis Victoria University of

Wellington, New Zealand. http://researcharchive.vuw.ac.nz/bitstream/handle/10063/6226/thesis.pdf?sequence=1

Samaie, M., & Malmir, B. (2017). US news media portrayal of Islam and Muslims: a corpus- assisted Critical Discourse Analysis. Educational Philosophy and Theory,

(14), 1–16.

Schwöbel-Patel, C., & Ozkaramanli, D. (2017). The Construction of the ‘Grateful’ Refugee in Law and Design. Queen Mary Human Rights Law Review, 4(1), 1-10.

Scott, C. & Safdar, S. (2017). Threat and Prejudice against Syrian Refugees in Canada: Assessing the Moderating Effects of Multiculturalism, Interculturalism,

and Assimilation. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 60, 28-39.

Statistics Canada. (2018). Police-reported hate crime in Canada, 2017. Retrieved 25, May 2019 From https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11-627-m/11-627-

m2018051- eng.htm

Stevenson, R. (2005). “Refugees and economic contributions”. Hopes fulfilled, or dreams shattered? From resettlement to settlement – Responding to the needs of new

and emerging refugee communities conference. University of New South Wales, Sydney, 23-28 November.

Tankard, J. (2001). The Empirical Approach to the Study of Media Framing. In S. D. Reese, O. H. Gandy, A. E. Grant (Eds.), Framing Public Life Perspectives on

Media and Our Understanding of the Social World (pp. 95-106). New York: Routledge.

The Government of Canada. (2016a). Canadian Multiculturalism Act R.S.C., 1985, c. 24 (4th Supp.) retrieved 22, February 2017 from


The Government of Canada. (2016b). Family violence: How big is the problem in Canada? Retrieved 13, December 2018 from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-


Torma, K. (2017). Refugees in British Media Coverage A Study of Dehumanizing Conceptual Metaphors. Unpublished Bachelors Thesis. Umeå University, Sweden.


Trudeau, J. [Siggy]. (2014, February 11). The budget will balance itself. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VgNEsWx9pI

Trudeau, J. (2015, Aug 12). “Great to talk to people in Regina about our plan to strengthen the heart of the Canadian economy: the middle class” [twitter post].


Tyyska, V., Blower, J., DeBoer, S., Kawai, S., & Walcott, A. (2017). The Syrian Refugee Crisis in Canadian Media. RCIS Working Paper. Ryerson University.

UN News. . (2017). Syria “worst man-made disaster since World War II” – UN rights chief. Retrieved February 6, 2018 from


Venir, A. (2015). UK Media Representation of Syrian Refugees : A Focus on the Press. Retrieved 25, June 2017 from


Wallace, R. (2018). Contextualizing the Crisis: The Framing of Syrian Refugees in Canadian Print Media. Canadian Journal of Political Science, 51(02), 207-231.

Wilkinson, L., & Garcea, J. (2017). The Economic Integration of Refugees in Canada: A Mixed Record?. Immigration Policy Institute.


Yaylaci, F. G., & Karakus, M. (2015). Perceptions and newspaper coverage of Syrian refugees in Turkey. Migration Letters, 12(3), 238–250.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17576/gema-2020-2004-03


  • There are currently no refbacks.




eISSN : 2550-2131

ISSN : 1675-8021