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Immigration Status as the Foundational Determinant of Health for People Without Status in Canada: A Scoping Review

This resourse is available in English only. 


This 2021 scoping review from Gagnon et al. argues that immigration status is a foundational and overlooked determinant of health for people who are undocumented or without immigration status in Canada.  

Immigration Status as a Determinant

The authors review and summarize 33 articles from 2008-2018 which demonstrate that a lack of Canadian citizenship or permanent resident status contributes to avoidable physical and mental health harms. 

The authors use the World Health Organization’s Social Determinants of Health framework to analyze the findings. They map the unfair and avoidable ways that people without status are negatively impacted in Canada. These impacts occur through: 

  • Harmful public policies and beliefs (structural determinants of health) such as the limited pathways for temporary residents to get permanent status, and the stigmatization and criminalization of people without status. 
  • Negative impacts on everyday conditions of life (intermediary determinants of health) such as fear of deportation, precarious employment, lack of medicare coverage and access to healthcare and social services. 
  • Poorer health consequences including poor physical and mental health outcomes and lower quality of care. 

This scoping review of the literature provides a foundation for public health and health practitioners to understand how immigration status affects health, and a framework for taking action to reduce the harms.  


Use this resource to:  

  • Understand how immigration status impacts the health of people living in Canada without status 
  • Facilitate discussion about how public health can take action to address immigration status as a determinant of health


Relevant Organization

Migrant Rights Network


Gagnon, M., Kansal, N., Goel, R., & Gastaldo, D. (2021). Immigration status as the foundational determinant of health for people without status in Canada: A scoping review. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, 1–16.

Tags: Access to health services, Immigration, Structural determinants, Document, Journal Article