Saturday, 12 January 2013

Two-Row Wampum: Two Centuries Too Late

One the recurrent themes of Idle No More protesters is the rhetoric of a ‘nation-to-nation' relationship between Canada and First Nations. This rhetoric grossly oversimplifies the complexities of the relationship that is in reality a complex interaction between one state and many nations within its borders. Indeed, Aboriginal Affairs note that there are 614 First Nations communities across Canada, encompassing every province and territory. This is possibly a conservative estimate.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Canadian Idle and the Strategy of Deference?

Certain claims, even by the simple act of being uttered, can have a devastating chilling effect. The clearest of these accusations is one of racism. A simple allegation even and especially if unfounded and often targeted on the basis of intellectual opposition, is enough to silence critics and terminate whatever semblance of discourse had to that point existed. One need only look to debates that rage over the Israeli-Palestinian to see the effect. Opponents questioning policy decisions of the Israeli government – not even the state, but the transitory government in power – can result in claims of anti-Semitism. These claims are used in order to preempt opposition, for instance to delegitimize Israeli Apartheid Week events.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Negotiating with Metaphors: the Chief and the King

There is a rich legacy of Aboriginal story telling, the use of narrative to inscribe important events in thought rather than in text. These range from creation myths to accounts of settlement and contact. They allow for the transmission of histories across generations and establish a link to the past. Indeed, oral histories have been affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada as having a status comparable to the written text. In the context of agreements between First Nations and settler societies, these oral submissions become important points of verification considering the spoken agreement and the written text often varied substantially. We cannot dismiss narrative and, as John Borrows has reminded us through his own work, such approaches have important contemporary resonance and explanatory power.[1]

Friday, 4 January 2013

The Small Matter of Responsible Government

Canada is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy. While I’m not fond of the monarchy part – elevating individuals based on heredity being so very unseemly – I do respect how this confluence of ideas and historical institutions underpins our mode of government. As David Smith has forcefully explained, the Crown is the first principle of Canadian government[1], underpinning diffuse aspects as federalism and the judiciary. I also take solace in the fact that I can separate the Crown – the locus of power and authority of the Canadian state – from the monarchy – the manner in which we choose to represent and express that power.