UBC Theses and Dissertations
The making of a “peaceable kingdom” : land, peopling and progress in an expanding Canada Choquette, Éléna
My dissertation mobilises the tools of critical political theory to study the processes of land appropriation and cultural homogenisation over lands claimed by Canada in the development of the Canadian state and identity. I examine the justifications for Canadian attempts at incorporating non-Canadian lands and peoples by using the case of the “North-West” (now the Prairie provinces). Adopting James Tully’s critical approach to political philosophy, I scrutinise hundreds of parliamentary and governmental archival documents. These documents reveal that the Canadian state mobilised liberal concepts of peace and progress to justify Canadian territorial and political expansion. I argue that Canada authorised its appropriation of Indigenous lands by claiming that it alone could improve the lands it looked to incorporate. To the extent that Canadian colonial liberalism regarded the Indigenous Peoples of the North-West as requiring the protection and assistance of the Dominion in achieving higher forms of humanity, colonial liberalism also authorised the epistemic violence of their assimilation to emerging settle communities. In short, I show that the Canadian state used colonial liberalism to effect the dispossession and assimilation of Indigenous Peoples necessitated by that its territorial and political development. By bringing into view the violence implicated in Canadian development, this dissertation first challenges the hegemony of the Canadian state and nation as those of a “Peaceable Kingdom”. Secondly, this dissertation uses Canadian political thinking to illuminate the larger liberal tradition. By examining the roots of liberalism in the process of territorial expansion and settlement in Canadian political development, I expose the intimate connection between liberalism and settler colonisation and surface the intrinsically violent potential of liberalism. Finally, this research identifies the potential for exclusion that is built into the liberal tradition and has to be addressed if Canada is to reconcile with the needs and aspirations of Indigenous Peoples. In particular, I argue that the contemporary Canadian liberal regime should redress its exclusionary legacy by supporting land-based practices of Indigenous self-government.
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