Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Gender, Race and Justification: The Value of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) in Contemporary Settler Colonial Contexts

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Gender, Race and Justification: The Value of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) in Contemporary Settler Colonial Contexts

Article excerpt

Introduction: the sociopolitical context

In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) released ninety-four calls to action outlining concrete ways that Canadian individuals, governments and institutions can work to redress the legacies of residential schools. The history of residential schools in Canada is long, complex and takes place over more than a century (Regan, 2010). As described in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's final report, these schools were created as part of larger processes of colonization, assimilation and dispossession where the Canadian government sought control over Indigenous lands, Peoples and systems of governance (Sinclair, Littlechild & Wilson, 2015). The policies, paternalism and racism that made these schools possible, what took place inside them, and the legacies that remain after the last of them was closed in 1996 have been named acts of genocide by many commentators and the Commission itself (Fontaine and Farber, 2013; Fraser and Mosby 2015; McLachlin, 2015; Palmater, 2016; Saganesh 2017; Staniforth, 2015; Stote, 2015; Sinclair, Littlechild & Wilson, 2015). Many of the recommendations contained in the TRC's ninety-four calls to action look to redress some of this complexity through transformations to primary, secondary and university curricula and pedagogical practice. The other recommendations look to the transformation of a wide range of public policy, law and litigation strategies.

Of the ninety-four calls to action, two of them specifically call for "the repudiation of concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous lands and Peoples such as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra millius" and to "reform those laws, government policies, and litigation strategies that rely on such concepts" (Sinclair, Littlechild and Wilson, 2015). These two calls to action are rooted in the historical nation-to-nation treaty relationships between Indigenous peoples and the Crown. Number forty-five specifically asks for the development of a Royal Proclamation of Reconciliation built on the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and the Treaty of Niagara of 1764. This Proclamation would work in conjunction with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to reinvigorate the core values of these two historic agreements.

In this framework, Indigenous Peoples would be recognized as self-governing nations that inhabited the land prior to European settlement and for their role in confederation. In addition, Indigenous law, including methods of negotiation, would play a significant role in resolving claims to land and resources. Although these two calls to action are directed specifically at the Government of Canada on behalf of all Canadians, the Principles of Reconciliation upon which each of them is founded, also recognize that all Canadians are treaty people, and as such, they share an individual as well as a collective responsibility in establishing and maintaining mutually respectful relationships in all areas of life (Sinclair, Littlechild and Wilson, 2015).

While these are laudable goals, there exist considerable social and structural impediments to their realization. Nation building in settler colonial contexts is dependent on "categorical forms of recognition and misrecognition [that] are indebted to deep philosophical histories of seeing and knowing" (Simpson, 2007, p. 69). Through text, talk, legal and political action, colonial mythologies are often reproduced through discourse as common sense or accepted knowledge reified as truth, reality and/or fact (Foucault, 1981: 54-55; Gebhard, 2017; Howsam, 2015; Jager, 2001: 34; Reid, 2014; Weedon, 1987: 75-80). For some, Truth and Reconciliation Commissions work to further an asymmetrical and non-reciprocal colonial politics of recognition not only in Canada but in other national contexts (Corntassel and Holder, 2008; Coulthard 2014; Matsunaga, 2016; Simpson 2015). …

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