Past Webinar: Colonialism and Oppression

Sunday, November 29, 2020 from 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm EST

This Zoom webinar featured three presentations. Each speaker had 20 minutes to present their arguments, and then there was 10 minutes for a question and answer period.

Capability and Oppression
Jay Drydyk, Carleton University

The capability approach focuses on understanding and removing unfreedom. So it is surprising that connections between capability and oppression have been little discussed. Here I take two small steps towards filling that void. (1) I consider an intuitive conceptual connection between capability and oppression. We can think of unfreedom in two ways. At a time, one may be unfree to eat well, to stay healthy, or to have good human relationships. Over time, one may be unable to change this, to expand one’s capability. That is, one may be held or confined in a low capability level, and this corresponds to a core meaning of oppression. (2) Normatively, it is crucial to see whether and how people are held at low capability levels as a result of the agency of others, even if (as in systemic or structural inequality) this effect is not always deliberate.

Canadian Decolonization: The Path to Indigenous Recognition and Sovereignty
Sebastian Farkas, Acadia University 

How can Indigenous communities acquire recognition and the claim to sovereignty they desire within Canadian society? The heinous treatment of Indigenous Canadians has been well documented. Residential schools sought to assimilate Indigenous peoples by forcing them to forget their culture and adopt the British way of life. Although, thankfully, Canada has progressed and moved away from this horrific past by making efforts to repair the Indigenous relationship. Whether it was Stephen Harper delivering a public apology in 2008, the establishment of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, or Justin Trudeau’s 2015 campaign promise to establish a genuine “nation-to-nation” approach, Canada has tried to repair historical wrongs. Yet, nothing has really changed. Even though Canada’s Constitution includes Section 35 that recognizes and affirms Indigenous rights in Canada, time and time again Canada fails to adhere to its own laws created to protect and improve Indigenous life. By relying on decolonization theory, this paper argues that Canada must change their process for adjudicating legal affairs if Indigenous peoples are to have their rights respected, guaranteed, and upheld. Specifically, this paper will focus on Indigenous land claims as a pivotal area of where Canadian law must decolonize if the state is to genuinely uphold their promise to preserve the rights of Indigenous peoples.

Justice and Accountability: What Obligations Do Non-Indigenous Governments and Persons Have in Our Relationships with Indigenous peoples?
Sandra Tomsons, Research Affiliate Centre for Health, Lakehead University

Canada’s governments and non-Indigenous scholars frequently use justice notions when discussing what they call ‘the Aboriginal problem’, ‘the Aboriginal rights problem’ or ‘Canada’s most serious justice problem.’  Our scholars propose theories of Aboriginal rights. Our politicians create policies.  Indigenous scholars and politicians criticize both. Recently, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised those who lost family members when the Ukraine Airline’s plane was shot down in Iran: “We will not rest until there is justice and accountability.” Hearing his promise, I wondered “Why aren’t you promising Indigenous peoples “We will not rest until there is justice and accountability for you?” If he made the promise, what would this just accountable relationship look like?  My presentation proves non-Indigenous persons don’t understand being just and accountable to Indigenous peoples.  We need Indigenous assistance to i) discern our colonial perceptual reality, so we can replace it; ii) help us discover the way to a mutually respectful treaty relationship; – the only way we can be just and accountable to Indigenous peoples.