This paper charts the anti-people smuggling policy changes to Canada’s immigration system and uses data since 2010 from government documents, parliamentary speeches and ministerial activity generated by Citizenship and Immigration Canada and related officials. The aim of this study is to demonstrate policy actions and intentions using critical frame analysis to expose underlying narratives and political ideological commitments within the people smuggling discourse. The result shows a constructed understanding of people smuggling as a threat to Canada, and policy violations of international humanitarian obligations according to United Nations protocols. I argue that the current legislation deals with people smuggling through harsh criminalization despite research that shows that the scope, motivations and function of people smuggling vary across time and space. I find that Canada’s anti-people smuggling reform, the Designated Foreign National regime, violates Canada’s international and domestic humanitarian obligations yet is justified by discursive framing of people smuggling under a neoliberal lens that disconnects the phenomenon from humanitarian considerations. I conclude with policy recommendations and areas for future research needed to better understand people smuggling and develop effective, comprehensive rights-based policy responses.