Presentation on theme: "First Nations politics in Canada"— Presentation transcript:
1 First Nations politics in Canada Response to Taiaiake Alfred, John Borrows, Alan Cairns, Deborah McGregor, Patrick Macklem, and Fiona MacDonaldPrepared by Milan Ilnyckyj – 11 October 2012Week Five – October 11: Identity Politics II: Aboriginal PoliticsGuest: Graham WhiteTaiaiake Alfred, Peace, Power, Righteousness: An Indigenous Manifesto Second edition (Toronto: Oxford, 2008), 1-63,John Borrows, “Seven Generations, Seven Teachings: Ending the Indian Act,” Research Paper for the National Centre for First Nations Governance, May 2008.-----, Drawing Out Law: A Spirit’s Guide (Toronto: UTP, 2010), preface, scroll one and scroll two.Alan Cairns, Citizens Plus: Aboriginal Peoples and the Canadian State (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2001), chapters 4, 5.Deborah McGregor, “Coming Full Circle: Indigenous Knowledge, Environment, and Our Future,” American Indian Quarterly 28: 3/4 (Summer, 2004),Patrick Macklem, Indigenous Difference and the Constitution of Canada (Toronto: UTP, 2001), chapters 2 and 9.Fiona MacDonald, “Indigenous Peoples and Neoliberal ‘Privatization’ in Canada: Opportunities, Cautions and Constraints,” CJPS 42 2 (June, 2011),
2 Two challengesHow to address the historical fact of colonialism and severe injustice directed toward First Nations people by the Canadian stateHow to reconcile First Nations political philosophy and political claims with the liberal assumptions at the foundation of the modern Canadian state
3 Reading FN politics as liberals To a large degree, the Canadian system of government is based on liberal assumptions:Individuals are bearers of rightsInsofar as group rights are important, it is because individuals choose to make them importantThe state should treat all individuals equally under the lawThe state exists to enforce cooperation, but should not infringe on the legitimate freedoms of individualsMany of the assigned readings take a much more communitarian viewWhat is meant by ‘culture’? And who decides what it involves or requires? –Macklem discusses this, Taiaiake asserts importance of ‘traditional values’ but largely doesn’t define themHow do you decide who is part of the community?
4 1 - InjusticesInjustice in the initial form of contact between Europeans and First Nations peoples, including the unjust seizure of landUnjust treatment of First Nations people by the stateEnduring structures that embody discrimination and cause harm
5 Taiaiake Alfred“All land claims in Canada, including those at issue in the BC treaty process, arise from the mistaken premise that Canada owns the land it is situated on. In fact, where indigenous people have not surrendered ownership, legal title to “Crown” land does not exist – it is a fiction of Canadian (colonial) law. To assert the validity of Crown title to land that the indigenous population has not surrendered by treaty is to accept the racist assumptions of earlier centuries.”
6 Subsequent injustices Cairns on some special topics considered by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples:Residential schoolsRelocation of Aboriginal communitiesInequitable treatment of veteransCultural aggression of the Indian ActTo this we could add: breach of promises, perpetuation of cycles of poverty and dependence, and more
7 Enduring structures that embody discrimination and cause harm Arguably includes the Indian Act, reservation system, division of responsibility for First Nations people between levels of government, court decisions, etcRoyal Commission:“Aboriginal people are over-represented among clients of remedial services such as health care, social services and the justice system (policing, courts and jails)”“High and rising rates of poverty and unemployment increase the need for welfare, housing subsidies and other payments to individuals”
8 Summary: injusticeWhat is the contemporary relevance of the injustices that occurred during the initial period of contact between First Nations people and European colonialists?Likewise, of subsequent harmful policies and programs that have since been discontinuedFinally, of contemporary institutions and practices that are arguably harmful or otherwise inappropriateWhat needs to be changed now to end ongoing injustice, and what ought to be done about the injustices of the past?
9 2 - Political philosophy Questions raisedBasis for the authority of First Nations governmentsFirst Nations governance in the Canadian and global context
10 These readings raise major issues of political philosophy On what basis is land legitimately owned?On what legitimate basis can a body exercise power and control over individuals, or over subsidiary groups?To what degree and in what way must reparation be made for past injustices?What is the nature of the good life, and what political structures help to bring it about?
11 Authority of First Nations governments A question of both source and justificationUtilitarian? –First Nations governments would do a better jobAlternative – historically based legitimacyHow do we reconcile a state structure predicated on the power of the provincial and federal governments over individuals with claims about group rights?
12 Canadian and global context How should the state legislate in relations to groups that it has historically oppressed?Be interventionist and try to right historical wrongs?Be non-interventionist in recognition of past incompetence and colonialismIf so, who governs?Viability of First Nation governments in a globalized worldCairns: largely groups of 5,000 to 7,000 peopleCapable of effectively addressing issues of interdependence on larger scales: trade, migration, environment, etc?
13 Summary: political philosophy First Nations political philosophy – insofar as it can be considered unified – cannot easily be made compatible with an order based around liberal statesSimilarly, the appropriate response to past injustices is not clear – particularly given how efforts at correcting past errors may themselves perpetuate colonialism