Criminalizing Race, Criminalizing Poverty

Welfare Fraud Enforcement in Canada

By Wendy Chan and Kiran Mirchandani  

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The criminalization and penalization of poverty through increased surveillance and control of welfare recipients in recent years has led many poverty advocates to claim that “a war against the poor” is currently in progress. The authors argue that people of colour are most often the casualties in the governments’ desire to roll back the welfare state. Relying on myths and stereotypes about racial difference, the enforcement and policing of welfare fraud policies constructs people of colour as potential “cheaters” and “abusers” of the system. This has allowed for the stigmatizing and discriminatory treatment of people of colour to persist unchallenged within the welfare system.

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  • Introduction
  • Welfare Fraud Legislation in BC and Ontario
  • Theoretical and Methodological Framework
  • Constructing the Problem of Welfare Fraud in the Media
  • The Effects of Welfare Fraud Enforcement on People of Colour
  • Racism, Neoliberalism and the Canadian State
  • Conclusion


  • Wendy Chan

    imon Fraser University

    Wendy Chan is a professor of Sociology at Simon Fraser University.

  • Kiran Mirchandani


    Kiran Mirchandani is associate professor in the Department of Adult Education and Counselling Psychology at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Her research focuses on home-based work, telework, contingent work,entrepreneurship, transnational service work and self-employment.

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