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Sharing the Land, Sharing a Future at Congress 2016

Congress 2016 Keynote Session Report

At Congress 2016, the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences organized a forum entitled "Sharing the Land, Sharing a Future" as part of its commitment to engage in dialogue and advance strategies for contribute to the process of reconciliation in accordance with the principles and Calls to Action outlined in the Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. At this event, representatives from several member associations were invited to speak about the meaning of and challenges associated with reconciliation within the context of their respective disciplines (more information, including a report on the forum, can be found at:  http://congress2016.ca/program/events/sharing-land-sharing-future). Terry Wotherspoon, who was President of the CSA at the time, represented our association. His comments, summarized below, are intended to encourage reflection and dialogue on the part of our membership as we develop a meaningful approach to advance the process of reconciliation.


As we consider what we can do as an association in meeting our responsibilities to advance objectives related to reconciliation, it is important to acknowledge from the outset two fundamental points:

1. reconciliation cannot be understood with respect to a simple outcome, but rather refers to ongoing processes and relationships; and

2. the focus on reconciliation is not an ‘add-on’ to other priorities, but something that permeates all that we do.


The Canadian Sociological Association, along with many of its individual members and other sociological practitioners, have made some progress along the pathways to reconciliation, but there is a considerable distance to travel to address many of the TRC Calls to Action, both those that have direct relevance to our activities and the many more which are indirectly related. Over the past few months we have invited a series of conversations and actions to try to provide greater focus for what we need to, and can, do, within our Association in order to work towards an action plan.


Within our organizational structure, lead roles in these activities have been undertaken by several members, including the work of our Equity Subcommittee and especially the initiatives undertaken by our Research Cluster on Indigenous-Settler Relations and Decolonization, guided by Jeff Denis.


Some insight into how our association is addressing issues of reconciliation, Indigenous-Settler relations, and decolonization can be gained by considering the nature and titles of several sessions taking place at this year’s CSA meetings. These include:

-an open joint panel (co-organized by the Equity Subcommittee and the Indigenous-Settler Relations and Decolonization Research Cluster) on Indigenous-Settler Relations and Decolonization: 20 Years after RCAP; as well as six sessions organized through the Indigenous-Settler Relations and Decolonization Research Cluster:

-The Struggle for Ownership, Control, Access and Possession: OCAP in Action;
- Why Indigenous Nationhood and Self-determination (Should) Matter to Sociology;
- Indigenous Resistance and Resurgence;
- Digital Technologies and Indigenous Cultural and Language Resurgence;
- Indigeneity, Law, Gender, Sexuality; and
- Pathways of Settler Decolonization.


The conversations within the Association, including those emerging through such key sessions, have been useful in drawing together critical knowledge, voices, and understandings that will help guide us in establishing future activities and directions.


Among the key challenges to confront as we move ahead, it is important to consider:

1. acknowledging the ways in which sociology and sociologists have been complicit in processes of colonization; this is not simply a matter of recognizing and accounting for past indiscretions, but requires us also to interrogate our ongoing practices to ensure that we do not engage in what I have referred to as “democratic colonialism” (covert practices that foster racism and exclusion even as we adhere to formal liberal democratic principles);

2. identifying ways in which our teaching, research and scholarship can contribute to reconciliation in ways that are respectful, meaningful and engaging; in these respects, it is crucial that we move beyond deficit orientations and concerns to “bridge gaps” towards orientations that acknowledge, build upon, and help foster indigenous perspectives, capacities and accomplishments (Patricia Monture challenge – what would “brown spaces’ truly look like?);

3. exploring ways in which we are able to foster increased numbers of Indigenous students, especially at the graduate level, and increase the number of Indigenous faculty members and researchers – this means more than raising numbers to meet equity targets or find new tuition sources – we need to position our work in Universities and other institutions along a life course that begins well before students reach our doors and continues well after they leave;

4. identifying mechanisms and practices through which we can work with the institutions in which we are employed and study in order to help them fulfill objectives identified in the Calls for Action;

5. exploring issues related to what (if this is possible) an Indigenous sociology would look like (given the Eurocentric nature of the discipline), and contributions to its development; and

6. exploring the relationships between reconciliation (while acknowledging its distinct significance) and broader struggles to achieve justice, and understanding how our activities can help advance these objectives.

Terry Wotherspoon, University of Saskatchewan, on behalf of the Canadian Sociological Association


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