Brock University

Indigenous-Settler Relations: Change and Continuity in Wake of Idle No More

In the winter of 2012/13, tens of thousands of Indigenous peoples across Canada and around the world gathered together for rallies, round dances and prayer circles to honour Indigenous sovereignty and protect the earth, air and water. These activities, triggered by federal legislation that facilitated access to reserve lands and undermined environmental protections without First Nations consent, were met with mixed reactions by non-Indigenous Canadians, ranging from physical and verbal confrontation and backlash to indifference to active public support. Although the Idle No More movement captured daily news headlines and international attention, the legislation was passed, Indigenous peoples demands were mostly ignored, and Canadas Economic Action Plan still focuses on large-scale resource extraction on and through Indigenous lands. Indigenous peoples, meanwhile, continue to defend their lands, assert their rights, and revitalize their cultures and communities. This session invites theoretical and empirical research papers on the state of and potential for (or cases of) transformation in Indigenous-Settler relations. To what extent are relations at both the level of interpersonal interaction in everyday life and institutional settings (schools, workplaces, etc.) and the nation-to-nation level marked by conflict, avoidance, negotiation, or cooperation? How, if at all, have settler attitudes and behaviours changed in recent years, and how do some individuals become allies? What would constitute just and equitable relationships? Finally, what is the significance of Idle No More for Indigenous peoples and Canada, and where is the movement heading?

Session Organizer: Jeff Denis, McMaster University, ; Patricia McGuire, University of Saskatchewan,


The “impulse to solidarity”: White settler subjectivity in Indigenous/settler solidarity encounters

Carol Lynne D'Arcangelis, ,

Idle No More – among the most recent and publicized incarnations of Indigenous resistance to settler colonialism – has reinvigorated discussions about Indigenous—settler relations. This paper explores these relations at a particular site of colonial encounter: political solidarity between Indigenous and white women in Canada. As a white feminist settler, I draw on interviews and auto-ethnographic reflection to discuss some of the prevailing intersubjective tensions of this “solidarity encounter.” I focus on the discursive mechanisms through which white women negotiate their dominant/privileged positionality/identity as settlers. Drawing on Ahmed (2000) and Moreton-Robinson (2000), I contend that a desire for transcendence often insinuates itself into these negotiations, and is in turn implicated in white settlers’ desires to reconstitute themselves/ourselves as Western liberal subjects. For it is the purportedly self-determining liberal subject who, through mobilizing discourses of proximity and exceptionalism, most effectively harbors the fantasy of extricating herself from (complicity in) the structural inequities of Canadian colonial society. I use “impulse to solidarity” to distinguish the bundle of desires and intersubjective dynamics of white women’s subject/identity formation in solidarity encounters, identifying therein the specificity of white settler women’s co-constitutive desires to both help and be helped.


Deepening Knowledge: Exploring Teacher Candidate Willingness to Incorporate Aboriginal Content in Future Teaching

Angela Nardozi, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, , Jean-Paul Restoule, OISE, , Kathy Broad, OISE, , Nancy Steele, OISE,

The Deepening Knowledge Project at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education has been working to bring Indigenous content to the Initial Teacher Education and Master of Teaching Program at our university since 2008. In 2012, we began research with one cohort of 70 teacher candidates to gauge their willingness and readiness to incorporate Indigenous content into their curriculum, using a mixed methods approach. Instructors of the cohort used a variety of strategies to infuse Indigenous content throughout the program. The research specifically on willingness has revealed a variety of Settler teacher candidate attitudes towards Indigenous content in the classroom, including some deep misunderstandings and underestimations of Indigenous Nationhood. Our research, including interviews and surveys, found 1. Teacher candidates see institutional limitations to including Aboriginal content in their work; 2. Teacher candidates expressed discomfort in their ability to teach Aboriginal content; 3. Teacher candidates’ responses reveal a limited view of Aboriginal topics; and 4. A political view of Aboriginal topics seems to be correlated with willingness to give Aboriginal content prominence in teaching.


Settler and Indigenous Territorial Belongings: Where the Parallax Gap Closes

Harald Bauder, Ryerson,

In contemporary public and academic debate in Canada, immigration and Indigenous narratives tend to be separated from each other. My empirical research suggests that Canada’s national identity as a settler society is discursively incompatible with Indigenous claims to territorial belonging. Elsewhere I described the phenomenon of the discursive split between immigration and Indigenous matters – which are factually closely interlinked – as a “parallax gap”. In this presentation I explore moments in which the two narratives connect and bridge the exiting parallax gap. I am not interested in conventional depictions of Indigenous peoples as disadvantaged groups similar to visible minorities. Rather, I focus on situations that bring together Aboriginal and settler frameworks of territorial belonging, and I explore the potential of these situations as critical moments in the dialectic of social transformation.


The Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the police order, and strategies of disruption

Konstantin Petoukhov, Carleton University,

Truth commissions, which are non-judicial bodies established to deal with the aftermath of mass atrocities such as genocide and ethnic conflict, are often considered vital tools for achieving normative transitional justice goals such as discovering the truth about a violent past and building reconciliation. In doing so, they perform a legitimating function of a new (usually democratic) political order by constructing a shared version of a nation’s history and building consensus about the causes, manifestations, and ultimately the resolution of a conflict.

This paper analyzes the work of the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), whose primary task is to examine the abuse and neglect that took place in Indian Residential Schools (IRS). In particular, I build on the work of Jacques Rancière on dissensus to consider the ways in which the TRC builds consensus about Canada’s colonial past by positioning IRS as an isolated instance in an otherwise spotless history of relations with Aboriginal peoples. I contend that the TRC represents what Rancière refers to as a “police order” – a system of legitimation the exclusions of which often go unquestioned. I also argue that the TRC represents a medium for IRS survivors disrupt and challenge the official version of Canadian history.


© Canadian Sociological Association ⁄ La Société canadienne de sociologie