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Race, Ethnicity, Indigenous Peoples and Politics

L05(a) - Negotiating Indigenous Claims Through the United Nations and National Institutions

Date: Jun 4 | Time: 01:30pm to 03:00pm | Location: SCRF 1024

Chair/Président/Présidente : Réal Carrière (University of Manitoba)

Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Megan Gaucher (Carleton University)

Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Réal Carrière (University of Manitoba)

Gender, Race, Indigenous Peoples and Politics: Knowledge Production and the UN: Abigail Bakan (Ontario Institute for Studies in Education / University of Toronto), Yasmeen Abu-Laban (University of Alberta)
Abstract: While the United Nations (UN) is commonly studied as an organization comprised of competing national states through the workings of the General Assembly or the Security Council, we start from a different premise. Specifically we use a neo-Gramscian lens to consider the role of the UN in knowledge production through a focus on UN world conferences. These have aimed to advance shared interests regarding various specific aspects of human rights, especially since the 1990s. In this paper we address world conferences pertaining to women (1995 Beijing), racial discrimination (2001 Durban) and Indigenous peoples (2014 New York). These conferences carried various impacts in terms of knowledge production on the world scale. Utilizing a discourse analysis and a close textual reading of the major UN Declarations associated with each global conference, we trace hegemonic and counter-hegemonic discourses of these three major conferences. We will consider how theses discourses are or are not reflected through these final outcome documents. This assessment will consider their relative impact on knowledge production at the global level. This new research is supported through a SSHRC Insight Grant.


Prospects for Implementation of the UNDRIP’s Protection of Indigenous Sacred Sites in Canada: Andrew Robinson (Wilfrid Laurier University)
Abstract: In July 2017, the Trudeau federal government committed Canada to “implementing the UN Declaration through review of laws and policies, as well as through other collaborative initiatives and actions.” Then in November 2017, the Supreme Court of Canada rejected a legal action initiated by the Ktunaxa First Nation of British Columbia seeking to protect a sacred site they call Qat’muk from a ski-resort development project. This made me curious about the current state of protection that exists for Indigenous sacred sites in Canada as well as the prospects for more fully implementing Canada’s UNDRIP commitments in this regard. This paper builds upon my previous research into the current state of protection and means for obtaining protection for Indigenous sacred sites in Canada which concluded that such protection does not meet the standard set by the UNDRIP. This paper will reflect upon a number of sources with the aim of assessing the possibilities and prospects for more fully implementing Canada’s obligations in this regard, including the following: literature on the nature of Indigenous sacred sites; the current state of such protection in treaties and s. 35(1) Aboriginal rights jurisprudence; examples from the American experience (court decisions, proposed legislation, Clinton’s executive order); and key provisions of the Trudeau government’s proposed Bill C-69 Impact Assessment Act.


Constitutional Recognition, Reconciliation, and Australian Projects of Settler Colonialism: Kiera Ladner (University of Manitoba), Michael McCrossan (University of New Brunswick Saint John)
Abstract: This paper examines efforts at constitutional dialogue and reconciliation in Australia, paying particular attention to proposals concerning constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. While settler governments have often signaled intentions to ‘recognize’ Aboriginal peoples within the text of ‘national’ constitutions, this paper questions the extent to which such efforts can be divorced from ongoing colonial projects aimed at Indigenous elimination and dispossession. In this regard, the authors trace such eliminatory rationales not only within Australia’s founding constitutional narratives, but also within more contemporary policy proposals, governmental reports, and political responses to ideas aimed at constitutional reformation and institutional change.


Referenda, Indigenous Sovereignty, and Nationhood Rights in Iraq and Canada: Insights from an International Perspective: Mariam Georgis (University of Alberta), Nicole Lugosi (University of Alberta )
Abstract: Referenda and territorial disputes within state borders are conventionally studied and perceived as a domestic, rather than an International Relations, issue. We contend the domestic approach misses crucial insights of how referenda are situated within colonial modernity and international nation-building, with consequences for Indigenous rights and sovereignty. The paper positions the struggles of Assyrians in Iraq and First Nations in Québec (Canada) during succession referenda as an IR problem. First, we argue that the erasure or attempts to assimilate Mesopotamian and Turtle Island’s Indigenous inhabitants cannot be studied in isolation; rather, it must be studied in conjunction with the modern phenomenon of nationalism and nation/state-building that has required, even necessitated, the removal of those identified as ‘outsiders’. Second, we demonstrate how separatists in both Kurdistan and Québec use secession (or threat thereof) as a political mechanism to negotiate their political, economic, and national positions with the Iraqi and Canadian states, respectively. However, little to no mention is given to the Indigenous nations, the Assyrians and the First Nations, whose sovereignty and nationhood is disregarded or rendered negotiable rather than as absolute inherent rights.