The Path to Legitimacy: The Human Right to Free Movement and International Borders

Leferman, Alexander
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University of Guelph

This thesis explores a relationship between democratic self-determination, universal human rights, and democratic legitimacy. States are democratically legitimate when they satisfy the first two terms of this relationship. However, these two terms are in tension. This tension is between the universal and particular natures of the terms and requires democratic procedures to provisionally resolve it. A universal human right can be interpreted and contextualized through such procedures to resolve this tension. I argue that the human right to free movement cannot be adequately contextualized in nation-state fora, but instead require an international democratic institution to perform this act. As a result, nation-states, in order to be legitimate, must give up control of their borders to the international institution so that they recognize the human right to free movement. A consequence of this is that Canadian immigration policy is insufficiently democratic and does not recognize the human right to free movement.

Free Movement, Borders, Human Rights, Democratic Legitimacy