research books

Past SSHRC Projects

SSHRCC Insight Grant (2013-2018)
Role: Principal Investigator “Aboriginal-Settler Bi-Nationalism as a form of Reconciliation within a Multicultural context: Can a New Zealand model of Power

Status: Completed

DESCRIPTION Hidden in plain sight, Aboriginal peoples are one of the fastest growing groups in Canada, yet their contributions have been marginalized politically and culturally in national life. It is undeniable that Aboriginal peoples face serious power imbalances relative to settler Canadians, due to the intergenerational effects of legalized discrimination, alienation from ancestral lands, abuse in Indian Residential Schools (IRS), inordinate rates of incarceration, poverty, social exclusion, and other systemic challenges. Those conducting research with Aboriginal peoples are well aware of broken relationships and fractured communities created by the IRS system, but are equally cognizant of the potential of Aboriginal traditional systems and ways of knowing to engender a more vibrant and dynamic society for all of us. There is movement towards improving Aboriginal-settler relationships through reconciliation, a term with multiple interpretations. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) observes that reconciliation may take seven generations, but has chosen to focus on shorter term reconciliation between Survivors, Aboriginal families and communities, with an emphasis on their healing journeys. Complementing the TRC, a longer term vision of reconciliation, epitomized through seven generations teaching, could potentially channel Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal energies towards a better, shared future. One (albeit imperfect) model of where we might direct reconciliation efforts is offered by New Zealand. From the 1970s, (indigenous) Māori political mobilization and Pākeha (settler) acknowledgement of colonial injustices inaugurated bi-nationalism, a process of power sharing and cultural syncretism between settlers and indigenous peoples, something starkly different from our view of bi-nationalism as an English-French settler dyadic relationship. This program of research problematizes NZ style bi-nationalism as a model of reconciliation in Canada, within a multicultural context. This project has four aims: To determine whether multiculturalism advances the interests of Aboriginal people. While heralded as model for ethnic and cultural relations, many Aboriginal theorists are critical of it. I seek to understand whether multicultural policies and practices could be better synchronized with Aboriginal priorities. To gauge the potentiality of bi-national models of power and resource sharing as a means to reconciliation, and to critically examine the prototypical case of NZ to determine whether this model (with both positive and negative features) offers insights into where our relationship with Aboriginal peoples could move. Of course this foregrounds the linguistic, cultural, and geographic diversity of Aboriginal peoples here, and their more complex treaty and non-treaty relationships with the crown. To use seven generations teaching to envisage benchmarks to help determine a timeline for successful reconciliation. Bi-nationalism offers the prospect of both Aboriginal self-determination on their own lands, as well as the potential to meaningfully share political, cultural, and economic power in Canadian institutions while also indigenizing these institutions and practices. This project tests whether the NZ model can be expanded to encompass bi-national multiculturalisms – that is, to create a framework which recognizes both the diversity and distinctiveness of Aboriginal peoples as pre-conquest multicultural peoples, alongside the multiculturalism of settlers. To gauge how Canada’s racialised minorities (in particular South Asian and Caribbean peoples) relate to each other now through multiculturalism, and to posit how this relationship might change in positive ways (while also identifying potential problems) if reconciliation is successful in creating a bi-national basis for governance in Canada.

SSHRCC Standard Research Grant (2009-2013)
Role: Principal Investigator “Indigenous People and the UN Genocide Convention: A Study of Indigenous Assimilation Policies in Canada”

Status: Completed

DESCRIPTION In the 19th and 20th centuries, indigenous residential schooling in Canada formed part of a government-sponsored policy of forced assimilation. This program of research investigates to what extent the 1948 UN Genocide Convention (hereafter the UNGC) is applicable to the study of First Nations residential schooling in Canada. This project has three principle aims: To outline the extent to which the UNGC has been incorporated into domestic laws in Canada, and to identify tensions between domestic legislation and international law. To understand the process by which people might advance claims of indigenous genocide, and to comment on how different judicial approaches to statutory interpretation and incorporation of the Convention influence the success of failure of these claims. To critically examine arguments for and against the proposition that aspects of government and church sponsored indigenous assimilation policies in Canada might be seen as “genocidal” according to the UNGC. Some indigenous leaders and advocates have invoked the Convention in an effort to reinterpret assimilation policies. To explore indigenous understandings of genocide and the UNGC through 50 detailed open-ended interviews in Saskatchewan and Ontario. These interviews with residential school students and indigenous leaders will inform the project and allow a better understanding of indigenous beliefs and cultural responses to their experiences. This project will be the first to attempt a major critical analysis of First Nations residential schooling through the eyes of the UNGC. It will also be the first to gauge First Nations perceptions of the UNGC and its applicability to their history. The project builds on my previous case study research into the UNGC and its applicability to indigenous groups in western settler societies. There are important policy ramifications. If residential schooling can be considered “genocidal” under international law, compensation models may need to be reconsidered to ensure a higher level of cultural and psychological support for victims, including consideration of the effects of intergenerational trauma on the second and third generations. Further, a greater level of government sponsored commemoration and memorialization may be required to reflect the extent of the crimes committed against indigenous peoples. Alternatively, if genocide was not committed in Canada yet indigenous peoples feel that it was, there is an important dissonance between how the government and indigenous peoples approach Canadian history. This dissonance may need to be addressed before healing can be successfully achieved.

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