Brock University

Exploring and contesting settler colonial practices: regulation, resistance, and redress

This session examines violence and settler colonialism, as well as the complex relations between settlers and indigenous populations. While settler colonial violence can be understood as direct forms of violence, including physical destruction and genocide, violence may also take structural forms, such as the silencing of indigenous narratives, the denial of historical and ongoing injustice, poverty and racism. The session welcomes historical and contemporary critical engagement with settler colonial apparatuses, institutions, discourses and relations in Canada and settler colonial regimes around the world. Moreover, the session aims to focus attention on challenges to settler colonialism, strategies of resistance, struggles for justice and the narrating of alternate stories and histories both by indigenous peoples and their allies. The session will, furthermore, consider justice for the victims and survivors of settler colonialism and the possibility of remaking settler colonial societies. Topics of interest may include (but are not limited to): Theorising settler colonialism; genocide; apartheid; settler-indigenous relations; the impact of ethnic/cultural diversity on settler-indigenous relations; land; forced relocation; deaths and disappearances; institutions (e.g., residential schools, criminal justice); transitional justice, including notions of reconciliation; indigenous social movements; and the comparative study of diverse settler colonial regimes.

Session Organizer: Augustine Park, Carleton University, ; Konstantin Petoukhov, Carleton University, ; Madalena Santos, Carleton University,


A critical assessment of challenges and opportunities for transitional justice as a method of redress for Indian Residential Schools

Konstantin Petoukhov, Carleton University,

The transitional justice paradigm, which typically consists of measures such as truth commissions, reparations, and prosecutions, has emerged as a response to the aftermath of mass violence, genocide, and ethnic conflict. Transitional justice has often been viewed as an appropriate method for facilitating short-term political transitions to democratic and liberal state regimes, whose goals include reconciliation, peace, justice for victims, recognition of the harm done, and affirmation of equality of victims’ rights.

Canada is a unique case because although it is not typically considered a “transitional” society, it nevertheless hosts mechanisms associated with transitional justice – a truth commission, a reparations programme, and commemoration initiatives – seeking to provide redress to former students who attended Indian Residential Schools (IRS) and who suffered abuse and neglect. This paper examines the challenges and opportunities that the resolution of IRS injustices poses to the existing transitional justice paradigm with the goal to enrich and re-theorize its constitutive elements and objectives for application in a non-transitional society in which Indigenous peoples continue to experience injustices stemming from the colonial project.


Speak the truth, but not to each other: Unsettling truth-telling about internment camps and residential schools

Jennifer Matsunaga, Queen's University,

Inquiries into transitional justice typically focus on the event and effectiveness of institutionalized repair mechanisms such as truth and reconciliation commissions. This paper builds on emerging settler/colonial governmentality literature (Monaghan 2013; Bennett, Dibley & Harrison 2014; Scott 1995;) to ask what might be learned about how institutionalized repair mechanisms relate to settler colonial ‘logic of elimination’ and how, if at all, these mechanisms translate into changes in techniques of governing. The paper focuses on the issue of Indigenous-settler reconciliation, particularly as it relates to the specificities of diasporic settlers; here, activists and scholars grapple with the question of how diasporic communities can best reconcile their relation to Indigenous peoples. In Canada, the federal government has instituted repair measures to both Indigenous peoples and settlers, yet little is known about how they relate to, inform, and/or stabilize one another. I examine one case in which institutionalized repair mechanisms were implemented and in which settler governmentality has not been examined in any depth: The Japanese Canadian Redress Agreement. By being attentive to the rationalities of truth and reconciliation, the ‘targets’ of these agreements and how they were developed, I demonstrate that using the tools offered by governmentality uniquely attune its user to grasp at once the practical work of government and opportunities to unsettle narrow approaches to truth and reconciliation.


Idle No More: A Four Directions Model of Indigenous Self-Determination Movements

Jeff Denis, McMaster University,

In the winter of 2012/13, tens of thousands of Indigenous peoples and their allies gathered in towns, cities and reserves across Canada to hold rallies, round dances and prayer circles to honour Indigenous sovereignty and protect Mother Earth. This paper draws on the Medicine Wheel concept to develop a “four directions” model that explains Indigenous self-determination movements as comprised of material, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual elements. In the case of Idle No More (INM), facilitating conditions included a young, growing, increasingly well-educated Indigenous population with ties to both pan-Indigenous urban networks and traditional homelands; the savvy use of new social media; rising frustrations with governments that promise “truth and reconciliation” but continue to violate treaty obligations; and critical hope grounded in spiritual commitments, including prophecies that foretell the peoples’ reawakening. In this context, the combination of federally imposed legislation that facilitated unwanted development on Indigenous territories and the courageous leadership of well-positioned Indigenous women triggered the emergence of one of the largest and potentially most transformative movements for Indigenous self-determination in the history of Turtle Island. An outstanding challenge is sustaining this movement in face of intense backlash from some powerful Canadians and the diversity of goals within the movement itself.


The Enduring Settler Colonial Emergency: Indian Affairs and Contemporary Emergency Management

Tia Dafnos, York University,

Since the early 2000s, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada has been enhancing and systematizing its internal production of intelligence on “civil unrest” involving on and off-reserve Indigenous communities. As of 2007, these practices have been undertaken as part of an “all-hazards” emergency management program. While these contemporary practices adopt new means, formats and configurations, they are continuous with the historical surveillance practices of Indian Affairs as a key mechanism of settler-colonial pacification. This paper considers these “emergency management” practices as a manifestation of the “colonial emergency” – a political mechanism of British imperial rule based on the exercise of prerogative / executive power. By showing how the everyday regulatory power of surveillance is interwoven with the exercise of imperial/colonial prerogative power, my analysis disrupts the characterization of emergency powers as “exceptional”. Instead, these are colonial pacification mechanisms authorized in/through law to manage an enduring state of “emergency” for the settler state posed by Indigenous self-determination and resistance.


Imperial Feminism and White Settler Colonial Nation Building: Contextualizing the Canadian Child Welfare System

Laura Landertinger, OISE/University of Toronto,

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This presentation is grounded in the contemporary colonial dynamics of the Canadian child welfare system - a system through which Indigenous children are being apprehended at an enormous scale (Pon, Gosine & Phillips 2011), die at staggering rates whence in custody of the settler state (Kleiss and Henton 2013), and where, in contrast, the child welfare personnel is predominately made up of white women (Fallon et al. 2003).

To denaturalize the present context, I engage in a historical study of child welfare in Canada. I place the emergence of child welfare in its often disavowed context of settler colonialism and white nation building. In this presentation I will share findings from extensive archival research, showing how colonial discourses of empire-building and white bourgeois femininity gave rise to the child welfare system and, further, how such discourses remain embedded within its institutional framework.

Throughout, the child welfare system is theorized as an institutional and discursive framework through which white settler colonial power over Indigenous peoples is authorized and enacted. As sovereign settler nations are (re)produced through the ongoing elimination and replacement of Indigenous peoples by the settler society (Wolfe 2006; Smith 2005), the removals and deaths of Indigenous children are gruesome reminders of the deadly permanency through which the white settler colonial "logic of elimination" (Wolfe 2006) manifests itself in fully contemporary ways in Canada today.



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