Sunday, January 31, 2021

European multiculturalism vs Indigenization as Inclusion, Reconcilliation and Decolonization.

This week's NS 115 class and reading has, yet again, forced me into thinking in a new way. I wanted to share some of those thoughts and possibly get some feedback and/or discussion.

The first theme was multiculturalism.  It came up in the lecture, but also a thread that Dr. Kim TallBear posted to twitter prior to the lecture.


To put the thinking in my own words, multiculturalism in a Canadian sense allows diversity in those spaces which are not predetermined by the systems of Canada.  Dr. Tallbear regularly talks of the collaboration between Church, State, and Science.

As a British subsidiary, the laws of Canada were adopted from British laws, and all its history including the fact that it is built upon Christian law. Until the Canada Act 1982 was passed in the UK parliament, when Canada is said to have "patriated" its constitution, laws passed in the UK were automatically treated as Canadian law. All the structures of Canada, right down to the British ceremonies carried out by the parliaments, are predetermined .

What is left are things such as clothing, fashion, music, dance, and food. The bulk of what makes you the person you were in the place you are from is replaced with European/British systems which you must adopt in order to live here.

This narrow definition of culture should be understood as predicated on indigenous erasure. Unlike if you immigrated to a non-colonial country where you would be expected to adapt to the laws of the land as they were developed over time, with "Canada" you are expected to adopt to foreign British systems, and the systems helps to ensure that you remain ignorant of the laws and social structures of the peoples and land you have moved to.

I know the power of these systems as I was born on this land and lived the majority of my life (I'm 52) without knowing what Canada was and how it actually exists, vs the propaganda I was told about so-called "nation building" (vs "nation replacing" or genocide).

This discussion of multiculturalism as erasure convinced me to read more.  With a quick search I found a masters thesis by Rebecca Shrubb titled: "Canada Has No History Of Colonialism." Historical Amnesia: The Erasure of Indigenous Peoples From Canada's History.

Multiculturalism and multicultural studies came to fruition in Canada in the seventies. Originally a political strategy introduced by the Trudeau Government, multiculturalism was intended to reduce the nation-claims of both Quebecois and First Nations to the status of ethnic groups. Prior to the induction of multiculturalism however, the Canadian government officially declared Canada a bilingual and bicultural nation. Commonly known as the Bi and Bi Commission, this new national identity was constructed by the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism.


Some people are stuck on the "cult of individuality", which pulls them out of time as you don't see their connection to the past or future. We are talking about the government of Pierre Elliot Trudeau and not the current Trudeau government, although the current Prime Minister follows in his fathers footsteps in many ways.  This includes his progressive-sounding talk which masks the ongoing promotion of colonialism (which is itself a form of White Supremacy on Turtle Island) of that government.

I personally believe that when you adjust for the time period that the Trudeau's are as problematic as Sir John A. Macdonald. I don't consider any Prime Minister of colonial Canada as deserving of statues or airports/buildings being named after them.


This brings me to one of the articles assigned this week: Indigenization as inclusion, reconciliation, and decolonization: navigating the different visions for indigenizing the Canadian Academy (DOI: 10.1177/1177180118785382 )

The article was focused on the academy, but I kept thinking about governance and democratic institutions as that is one of my passions.  The article discussed a 3 part spectrum for indiginization.


  • Indigenous Inclusion, which is to try to include Indigenous students and faculty into existing institutions.  The idea is that if you include people, that this will automatically make those institutions more "multicultural".  Understanding multiculturalism as continuing colonialism, this ultimately isn't a solution to any problem beyond historical explicit exclusion.

From a governance level I always remember that at Confederation only a subset of white males were allowed to vote.

Only when the settler population had grown (through immigration and other policies) to overshadow the indigenous population was that indigenous population allowed to vote. While settlers watch the USA and their gerrymandering and voter suppression, there is little recognition that Canada uses voter suppression and immigration policies to achieve similar anti-democratic results.

While non-white immigrants may grow in population, the fact that they have been assimilated into British systems means that they will vote along the criteria set out to them by those systems ,and won't be putting pressure to fundamentally change democratic institutions to not be British or otherwise European.

While indigenous people are currently allowed to vote, and can be elected as members of parliaments, this requires conformity to the British systems and its values in order to have any political influence.

While the existing nations had their own governance pre-contact and pre-Confederation, and largely governance that had active participation across all genders, colonialism involved forcibly deposing and/or not recognizing the existence of these democratic governments.  Indian Act band councils are not responsible Indigenous governments, but a foreign bureaucracy responsible only to the Canadian Crown.

There are many pro-Democracy freedom fighting campaigns against the anti-democratic policies of Canada, but settlers continue to believe such pro-Democracy campaigns are only possible overseas against other foreign governments as they believe in "Canada the good" and not the real colonial Canada.

  • Reconciliation indigenization involves more than adding Indigenous people to existing institutions, but to remove “epistemic ignorance” of Indigenous knoweldges.

I wonder if we are seeing a start of this with how northern Territories are governed. While the Nunavut government is still situated under the Canadian Crown, and thus is not self-government, it does use a consensus government form that is very different from the extremely hierarchical (and monarchy-like) structures we see in the provinces and Canadian federal government.

It would be interesting if this trend could continue to include all of the Inuit Nunangat, separating Nunavik from Quebec and separating Nunatsavut from Newfoundland and Labrador, allowing at the minimum similar governance that has been enabled for Nunavut for all 4 regions.

Over time I wonder if similar can be done with other regions of the Dene peoples, extending territorial governance further south into more of the boreal regions within Canada.  There are primarily Indigenous populated northern parts of "provinces" which have absolutely nothing in common with the more colonialized southern parts. Those voices should not be suffocated by the foreign southern voices.

  • Decolonial indigenization discussed some varieties
    • Treaty-based decolonial indigenization which envisions a "dual university" structure, with exchanges between them modeled on what the treaties were intended to be treated as.


In governance this is the discussion of self-governance, restoring the ability of First Nations, Metis and Inuit to manage their own governance in parallel with Canada, rather than the current structure where Canada tries to make FNMI subservient to Canada. As discussed earlier, restoring rights of self-determination can start immediately as some nations have retained their governance structures that simply need to be fully acknowledged.

This is the most often discussed endpoint for decolonization, with the European created government and its citizens finally fully honoring the treaties they made to be allowed to exist on and share Turtle Island.

I personally hope that it is only a stepping stone to moving further.

    • Resurgence-based decolonial indigenization "where decolonization looks to transform existing institutions, to remake colonial structures in a new image".


This is not something I'm aware of being discussed in the context of governance, and I am interested to know if anyone has heard of this. I wonder if it is possible to transform all the systems of Canada to eventually be legitimately considered a domestic rather than a foreign system.


Until this article I had always been assuming the ultimate goal of decolonization to be to have Turtle Island governed entirely by Indigenous governments, with colonial governance fading into history.  This would be a complete form of #LandBack, recognizing the many centuries demonstrated inability of persons with western worldviews to peacefully share land.

This would involve any qualified settler eventually being adopted into a host nation.

I have my ideas, but I am curious to hear what other people believe is realistically to hope for, in what time period, and where we may eventually end up?


Is optimism naive?

While I have moments of optimism as I learn, I also worry about the opposite possibility.

Canada is current engaged in what could be called a "cold genocide" similar to a "cold war". I am quite worried about the possibility of Canada being unable to modernize and become what in modern times would be considered civilized. It is possible that Canada would launch a "warm genocide" against Indigenous peoples if the powerful felt too threatened by modern ideas of civilization.

If Canada didn't stand in the way of the full recognition of human rights, there will still be other threats.  What is the future of the USA?

I believe because of global dynamics that the nations of the northern part of Turtle Island would need to have adequately coordinated defense, something along the lines of what NATO did for Europeans. I worry that without such planning early that Europeans and/or their settlements might try to launch the conquest that many settlers incorrectly believe happened in the past.  Part of the excuse the British gave for their illegal westward expansion was to "protect" against northward expansion of the separatists of the United States. Veterans of the wars against US expansion have never been honored by Canada, including land grants.

Turtle Island Nations will need to have strong alliances with other nations at the United Nations to ensure they are not left entirely along in their defense.

No comments: