Geoffrey Cameron

Geoffrey is studying the influence of religious communities on the development of international refugee policies in North America.

Geoffrey Cameron is an award-winning author and student of immigration policy, citizenship, and religion and politics. His research brings to light the under-estimated role of religious groups in the development of refugee resettlement policy in Canada and the United States. Cameron has led national initiatives on religion, secularism, and public life as principal researcher with the Baha’i Community of Canada, and has advised the head of the Africa Bureau in Canada’s foreign ministry.

Doctoral research

Religious Groups and the Politics of Refugee Policy in the United States and Canada

After the Second World War, the United States and Canada emerged as two major countries of refugee resettlement, and by 1980 both passed major legislation that committed them to annual refugee admissions. The United States, however, adopted a single-track government-managed refugee program, and Canada developed a parallel system of private sponsorship. It is surprising that the United States, with its anti-statist tradition, would adopt its program while statist Canada developed private sponsorship. My dissertation explains why both countries passed major refugee legislation around 1980, and why they pursued such different kinds of programs.

I examine the rise of religious groups (Jewish, Protestant, Catholic) as significant actors in the field of refugee resettlement in the post-war period. In both countries these groups forged policy networks that sought larger admissions of refugees, and practical involvement in their resettlement. My findings, supported by extensive archival research, suggest that interactions between religious groups and different government institutions in response to series of refugee crises in the post-War period generated divergent approaches that became codified in landmark refugee legislation.

In Canada, this advocacy focused on the immigration ministry, which primarily selected refugees on the basis of labour market needs. Private sponsorship arrangements developed as programs to permit parallel humanitarian admissions of refugees, who did not meet labour market quotas and categories. In the United States, advocacy centred on Congress and the White House, where the obstacles to refugee admissions were related to concerns about cultural integration, anti-Semitism, and anti-Communism. The involvement of religious groups in implementing government-funded programs was key to unlocking large scale refugee admissions after the war. Ad hoc responses to refugee crises during the Cold War generated practical arrangements in the relationship between these religious groups that were later codified in legislation, and remain in place today.

Geoffrey Cameron has successfully defended his PhD in the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto in June 2018. His research examined the role and influence of religious groups in the expansion of refugee resettlement in Canada, the United States, and Britain.

Geoffrey is a graduate of the international development studies program at Trent University, where he received the Symons Medal upon graduation. As an undergraduate, he was editor-in-chief of Undercurrent: Canadian Undergraduate Journal of Development Studies, and a co-founder of InSight, the annual national students' conference on international development studies. Geoffrey also studied in Ghana, where he interned with the Ghanaian Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice. Geoffrey completed an MPhil in politics at Oxford University, where he studied at St Antony’s College as a Commonwealth Scholar. He conducted field research in Ghana and Nigeria to write a comparative study of national human rights institutions in those two countries.

During his studies at Oxford, Geoffrey was a college lecturer in politics at St Catherine’s College, a book reviews editor with the St Antony’s International Review, and a research associate with the Foreign Policy Centre. After graduating, Geoffrey worked with Professor Ian Goldin, the director of the Oxford Martin School, to co-author Exceptional People: How Migration Shaped Our World and Will Define Our Future (Princeton, 2011). The book won several awards and was named by The Economist as one of the best books in politics and current affairs in 2011.

After returning to Canada, Geoffrey entered the federal public service through the Recruitment of Policy Leaders program. He worked as a senior policy advisor in the office of the director-general for Africa in the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, where he helped to lead a major policy development process to re-cast Canada-Africa relations. In 2011, Geoffrey accepted a position as principal researcher with the Baha’i Community of Canada, in which capacity he has spearheaded a number of national initiatives related to religious pluralism, youth participation in society, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Geoffrey’s writing has appeared in the Literary Review of CanadaThe Globe and Mail, the Toronto StarEmbassy, and Project Syndicate