Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

What Causes Canadian Aboriginal Protest? Examining Resources, Opportunities and Identity, 1951-2000

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

What Causes Canadian Aboriginal Protest? Examining Resources, Opportunities and Identity, 1951-2000

Article excerpt

Abstract: Drawing on the social movement literature, this paper tests whether or not Canadian Aboriginal protest, 1951-2000, can be explained by resource mobilization, political opportunities, or the construction of a PanAboriginal collective identity. Using regression analysis it argues that the strongest influences on protest are the founding of new organizations, federal monies, media attention, and successful resolution of land claims. The paper also concludes that differences among "status groups," and their access to resources and opportunities, inhibit broad based PanAboriginal protest.

Resume: Cetarticle se base sur la discipline de mouvements sociaux pour tester si les demonstrations d'autochtones canadiens peuvent etre expliquees par les theories de mobilisation de ressources, d'opportunites politiques ou d'identite collective Pan- Autochtones. En utilisant une analyse de regression, l'article maintient que les influences les plus considerables sur les demonstrations sont l'etablissement de nouveaux organismes, l'aide federal, l' attention mediatique ainsi que la resolution favorable de disputes territoriales. L' article conclu egalement que des differences entre les " groupes de statuts " ainsi que darts lear acces a des ressources et opportunites ont une influence nefaste sur les demonstrations Pan-Antochtones plus etendu.

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During the 1990s, Canada experienced a rise of Aboriginal contentious action. Opposition against the Meech Lake Accord, its defeat, the violent standoff at Oka, the Dudley George shooting at Ipperwash Park, or the Mi'qmak lobster crisis in the Maritimes are just some examples. (1) However, few scholars systematically examine why this increase in protest occurred or why it was so widespread. Instead, the vast majority of scholarship exploring Canadian Aboriginal contention focuses on a single status group or First Nation, relying on anthropological, ethnographic and historical analysis. (2) Despite some notable exceptions, such as Wilkes (2004), Carroll and Ratner (1996a; 1996b), Long (1992), and Tennant (1990), large-scale studies looking at wider patterns over time and space remain rare.

This paper addresses this research gap by testing which factors influenced Canadian Aboriginal protest during the 1951-2000 period. Drawing on social movement literature, it examines whether resource mobilization, political opportunities, or the construction of a PanAboriginal collective identity account for protest. Using regression analysis, I argue its strongest influences are the founding of new organizations, federal monies allocated to Indian Affairs, media attention, and successful resolution of land claims. The paper also concludes that PanAboriginal identity poorly accounts for increased protest, because differences in legal status among Aboriginals and federal funding of organizations generate competition and divisions among them.

Possible Influences

The social movement literature offers many explanations for why people act contentiously. By this I simply mean acting and organizing outside dominant institutions, with the intention of engaging or challenging power holders. (3) In recent years three perspectives have come to dominate the literature: resource mobilization, political opportunities, and collective identity. (4) This is not to say they are exhaustive of the area but rather provide consistent insight for why people mobilize.

The resource mobilization perspective accounts for contentious action by looking at the resources needed to organize and coordinate actions. Usually this perspective links protest to the availability of financial assets (cf. Zald and Ash, 1966; Zald and McCarthy, 1980), but also examines other types of resources, such as social or human capital and the availability of organizations (cf. Donati, 1996; McAdam, 1982). In fact, many advocates of this perspective measure the success of resource mobilization by the presence of organizations that act as hubs of interaction and assets. …

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