UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Questioning the Crown : English liberalism, Canadian settler colonialism, and sovereignty Collie, James


Despite claims towards a process of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, the Canadian state has made no attempt to reform its unilateral claim to sovereignty over the lands now known as Canada. This has direct consequences for any process of reconciliation, as it results in the Crown acting over Indigenous peoples, rather than with them. This thesis questions the Canadian state's liberal notions of state sovereignty, especially in relation to both colonization and the nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous peoples. I start this research with a historical survey of the liberalism of John Locke and Thomas Hobbes, their conceptions of sovereignty, and the effects of this on colonization in Canada. These two writers discussed three similar principles of state sovereignty, which I define by: 1) the consent of the governed; 2) majority rule; 3) locating Indigenous political authority as outside the realm of sovereignty. I then take these principles and analyze their role in Confederation, and how they were institutionalized through the Canadian constitution. I then look towards Indigenous notions and critiques of sovereignty and how they interrupt the Crown’s claim to unilateral sovereignty. Ultimately, I argue that the conflicts between the Crown and Indigenous peoples have to do with a clash of the first and third principles; Indigenous peoples never consented to unilateral Crown sovereignty, and it is now assumed over them through the third principle. I show how this necessitates a refusal of the Crown’s unilateral claim to sovereignty, and the institutions that this idea created, namely the Canadian constitution.

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