It is common knowledge that the British and French came to Canada to colonize the country. It is also common knowledge that Aboriginal peoples were kicked out of their homes and forced to relocate to make room for the colonizers. Aboriginal peoples face various struggles throughout colonization, the most devastating is the deterioration of their land and culture. What is a continuously mistaken is that this colonization period is over. In Caledonia there is a group of Six Nations protestors reclaiming their land that was once theirs. This dissent over the land in Caledonia is more than a struggle against the housing development by Henco Industries. It is about the century long battle for land that Aboriginal peoples have had to fight since settlers first arrived on Canadian shores. The Six Nations land reclamation in Caledonia is a stand against the continuing exploitation and colonization of Aboriginal peoples in Canada.
For decades, Aboriginal peoples have been criminalized for their dissent against the removal of land by the Canadian state. One of the most memorable is with the Oka crisis, where protestors were being arrested and fought against by the Canadian military. As with Oka, the Six Nations in Caledonia are fighting over the same thing…land. For Aboriginal peoples the land is invaluable not only because it was primarily theirs, but because the land is crucial for their survival (Linden 2007: 15-16). Aboriginal peoples feel as though the land is sacred, it is apart of their cultural, political, and economic survival (16). Similarly, land is important for the Canadian state. The word “state” is comprised of two words, estate meaning land and the rights over it, and the word status referring to authority and rights (Neocleous 2003: 98). Therefore, state not only means space, but sovereignty over that space. In order to govern a population, there must be domain in which this can occur in order to achieve legitimacy. Just as with Aboriginal peoples, land plays an important political, economic, and cultural role in Canada.
During the colonization period the Canadian state stole land in order to govern; similarly, we see a continuation of these colonial practices in Caledonia. The land that belonged to the Six Nations is being stolen and delegated to Henco Industries simply because the state feels as though it has the power to do so. The extraction of land by Canada continues to perpetuate the colonial practices and power that the state holds. If the Canadian state were to completely turn over a portion of land to the Six Nations, they would inherently give up a part of their sovereignty. This reduction in sovereignty also causes a reduction in legitimacy, how can a state rule if it does not have complete control over the land in which it claims? The state continues to exploit Aboriginal peoples in order to maintain this legitimacy and sovereignty it has created. The maintenance of sovereignty not only has a political purpose, but also an economic one (Gordon 2011: 67). By giving land to the Six Nations in Caledonia, it would provide precedent to grant land to other Aboriginal land claims. This would be highly costly to Canada because it would reduce its ability for economic expansion, such as the impasse of expansion in Caledonia due to the reclamation. As well, giving land to all Aboriginal claims would reduce access to natural resources, reduce other economic expenditures, and would require the reconstruction of Canada (2011: 67). Sidney Linden points out that it is a huge economic loss for Canada when these protests occur, due to policing and other costs (2007: 36). What is forgotten is that Canada is a capitalist country, the economy is central and plays in important role in the security of Canada. As Gary Kinsmen, Dieter K. Buse, and Mercedes Steedman makes clear, “the concept of ‘national security’ rests on notions of the interests of the ‘nation’, which is delimited by capitalist, racist, patriarchal, and heterosexist relations” (2000: 281). As mentioned earlier, in the long run it would be more costly for the state to surrender land, because it would hinder future development and put the economic security of Canada at stake. What we see occurring with the Six Nations, and all Aboriginal peoples, is that their rights are continuously being rejected for the political and economic security of Canada.
The colonization and exploitation of Six Nations and other Aboriginal peoples is exemplified with cartography. Cartography is the practise of creating maps. Maps are crucial to a state because it solidifies colonial borders made by those in power (Neocleous 2003: 120). As Mark Neocleous makes clear, “when Columbus arrived in the ‘indies’ he imposed his own names for the islands over the already existing names of the natives” (120). This is exactly what occurred within Canada, once the settlers came in they imposed their power through delegating which spaces were theirs and which belonged to Aboriginal peoples. The map is the most explicit assertion of sovereign power (121), which is why the map of Canada does not explicitly state which land is occupied or owned by Aboriginal peoples. If the map were to explicitly state where Aboriginal land was located, it would imply that they have ownership and sovereignty over that land. Furthermore, the foundation of borders and space allows for the solidification of a territory where an identity can be formed.
By determining borders one can determine who is within or outside of them, and how they are treated. Maps help form an image of the state that the population can identify with (Neocleous 2003: 123). It creates a physical and symbolic “homeland” with a coinciding national identity (123). This national identity, that it partially generated by maps, can also isolate certain groups. Citizenship and belonging is not only determined by the place of birth, but also on one’s loyalty to the state (Kinsman et al. 2000: 282). Six Nation are born within the borders of Canada, but they are considered outsiders or deviants because they go against the Canadian state, thus they are internal dangerous foreigners. An internal dangerous foreigner “is both an insider who legally belongs to the state and simultaneously deemed an outsider/Other who does not substantively belong within the nation” (Dhamoon and Abu-Laban 2009: 169). They are simply others because they are “unlike us” (169). This label of internal dangerous foreigner acts as a “cutting out” device, denying people of their civil and human rights, and rejection from society (Kinsmen et al. 2000: 283). This is a form a re-nationalization, by determining who is the “other” you simultaneously reaffirm who is accepted (Dhamoon and Abu-Laban 2009: 165). Historically, Aboriginal peoples have been “othered” by the Canadian state, similarly, this occurs in Caledonia on the part of the residents. Many residents were calling for the control and destruction of the protest, because it devalued property and negatively affected business. Many residents were upset with the state because of its hands-off approach, they felt as though the were the victims of the lawlessness of Aboriginal peoples. The Six Nations protestors became internal dangerous foreigners because they failed to conform to Canadian laws and were impeding on the economic capabilities of Caledonia and its residents. Many residents actually fought with protestors and rejected them from the community, rather than listening to their claims and attempting to understand them. Kinsman et al. explain that the common-sense character of national identity and national security makes it difficult for people to criticize Canada and its actions (2000: 283). This common-sense mentality can partially be explained by maps. Maps are author-less, making it appear as though it was an objective creation rather than a controlled and symbolic representation of the state (Neocleous 2003: 123). The map has the ability to neutralize all of the history that went behind its creation (123). This occurs because people forget how borders were created, “borders may be drawn in blood, but the blood never appears on the page” (124). This forgetting and othering allows for the continuation of colonization and exploitation of Aboriginal peoples because it fails to recognize and accommodate their difference. Instead it banishes them from protection, it is only when they conform to the political, economic, and cultural relations of Canada that they are partially accepted.
This begs the question, is Canada really a multicultural democratic country?
Dhamoon, Rita and Yasmeen Abu-Laban. 2009. “Dangerous (Internal) Foreigners and Nation-Building: The Case of Canada.” Internal Political Science Review 30: 163-183
Gordon, Todd. 2011. “Empire at Home.” Pp. 66-133 in Imperialist Canada. Winnepeg: Arbeiter Ring Publishing.
Kinsman, Gary, Dieter K. Buse and Mercedes Steedman. 2000. “How the Centre Holds – National Security as an Ideological Practice.” Pp. 278-286 in Whose National Security? Canadian State Surveillance and the Creation of Enemies, edited by Gary Kinsman, Dieter K. Buse and Mercedes Steedman. Toronto, Canada: Between the Lines.
Linden, Sidney. 2007. “Primer on Aboriginal Occupations.” Pp. 15-27 in Report of the Ipperwash Inquiry, Volume 2. Ipperwash Inquiry.
Neocleous, Mark. 2003. “The Home of the State.” Pp. 98-124 in Imagining the State. Berkshire, England: Open University Press.