2. The Historical, Legal, and Political Context of the ‘Shut Down Canada’ Movement
2.1. The Macro-Historical Context
2.2. Reconciliation as State-Managed Pluralism
2.3. Modern Treaties as State-Managed Pluralism
2.4. UNDRIP as State-Managed Pluralism
3. ‘Reconciliation Is Dead’: Indigenous Resurgence and the Rejection of State-Managed Pluralism
3.1. Resurgence and the ‘Turn Away’
3.2. ‘Reconciliation Is Dead’
4. The ‘Populist Zeitgeist’
4.1. Monist Understandings of Populism
4.2. ‘Pluralist’ Understandings of Populism
5. Populism, Resurgence, and Politics ‘From Below’
5.1. Populism and Resurgence
5.2. Understanding the Current Conjuncture as a Contest of Projects from Above and Below
5.3. Centering the Above/Below Distinction
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
I am grateful to the reviewer who suggested exploring the work of William E. Connolly as a resource for the account of pluralism developed here. Connolly’s corpus is extensive and varied, and a thorough engagement will have to be the subject of future essays. For now, let me acknowledge the connection, and note that readers may find Connolly’s pluralism of interest.
The term ‘Turtle Island’ is drawn from the occurrence of the turtle in many Indigenous creation stories, including the Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee. It is commonly used to refer to North America while implicitly calling into question the European prerogative to name, govern and exploit a land which was already occupied and governed when they arrived. (Snyder 1995, pp. 454–62).
“Aboriginal people did not infer or accept a relationship of domination, nor did the Europeans, in practice, try to impose one”. Canada; (Erasmus and Dussault 1996, p. 120).
For an extended discussion see Cherry, Practices of Pluralism especially chapter 2.
For a dsicussion of the development of shared and hybrid structures at the political and legal levels respectively see Cherry, Practices of Pluralism, chp. 2 and 3.
Tully helpfully discusses this transition from the “ancient constitution” models, with their polyvocal theories of authority to the “victorious modern language of constitutional uniformity” in which political authority speaks with/through one voice. (Tully 1995, pp. 58–59).
For example, a memorial address given to Prime Minister Laurier by Shuswap, Okanagan and Nlaka’pamux chiefs stressed the difference between fur-trade Settlers and agricultural Settlers, noting that the former were economically interdependent and therefore cooperative and neighbourly, while the later wanted only to displace Indigenous peoples. (Tully 2017). More generally see (Miller 1989, chp. 2). For a detailed account of this transition see (Walters 1995).
See e.g., Cherry, Practices of Pluralism at pp. 51–53.
See Cherry, Practices of Pluralism chps. 4, 3 and 2 respectively.
See for example Unist’ot’en Camp, “Governance Structure” https://unistoten.camp/about/governance-structure/ (accessed on 1 May 2021).
See for example, the recent surge in treaty-activism in L’nu territory. Melkita’n, “Colonizers Being Colonizers: Lobster Fishing & the Continued Oppression of L’nu’k in Mi’kma’ki” Yellowhead Institute Policy Briefs, No. 92 (2021); (Cherry 2020).
To take a few illustrative examples: in R v. Francis, the defendant claimed that Canadian law did not apply to members of the Mohawk Nation on reserve because they are not Crown subjects and because no treaty established such jurisdiction. The court’s reply was succinct “even if there existed some basis on which to challenge the acquisition of sovereign jurisdiction by Canada, the domestic or “municipal” courts of Canada lack competence to question it”. R. v. Francis, ONSC 05/17,  85 OR (3d) 45 at 7. In 1536412 Ontario Ltd. v. Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council, ONSC 08/82,  CanLII 28041, the court held that “the special rights enjoyed by the aboriginal communities under our constitution do not include sovereignty” at 22. In R. v. Ignace,  103 BCAC 273,  156 DLR (4th) 713 at 11, the appellants argued that Canadian jurisdiction did not apply on lands which had never been acquired by treaty. Citing Delgamuukw, the court found that any First Nations sovereignty, jurisdiction or legality failed to survive the application of common law. In R. v. Day Chief, 2007 ABCA 22,  412 AR 29, the defendants argued “that Alberta lacks jurisdiction to regulate their conduct—and indeed any conduct on the specific land where the offences are alleged to have occurred—because that land was acquired by fraud”. Citing Sparrow, the court held that underlying sovereignty was always with the Crown, even on lands where no treaty had been signed.
For various expressions of the ‘reconciling’ function of aboriginal rights, in chronological order, see e.g., R. v. Sparrow,  1 SCR 1075,  70 DLR (4th) 385 at 39; R. v. Van der Peet,  2 SCR 507,  4 RNLR 177 at 31; Delgamuukw v. British Columbia,  3 SCR 1010,  153 DLR (4th) 193 at 81; Haida Nation v. British Columbia, 2004 SCC 73,  3 SCR 511 at 20. For a discussion of the legitimizing roles of reconciliation see (Simpson and Le Billon 2021).
R. v. Bernard, 2005 SCC 43,  2 SCR 220 at 51.
“aboriginal interests and customary laws … were absorbed into the common law as rights, unless (1) they were incompatible with the Crown’s assertion of sovereignty, (2) they were surrendered voluntarily via the treaty process, or (3) the government extinguished them” Mitchell v. M.N.R., 2001 SCC 33,  1 SCR 911 at 10.
R. v. Pamajewon,  2 SCR 821, 138 DLR (4th) 204 at 27.
See e.g., Sparrow at 1114-1115; R v. Gladstone,  2 SCR 723,  137 DLR (4th) 648 at 62–65, and Delgamuukw at 160–169.
Haida, at 27.
For further discussion see (Mack 2010; Alfred 2000). I would also like to acknowledge that Taiaiake Alfred has recently resigned from the University of Victoria for presiding over a toxic and patriarchal environment, and has faced numerous criticisms regarding his relationship with women in particular. It would be wrong to cite to his work without acknowledging his problematic behaviour and making clear that I in no way condone his actions. I stand in solidarity with all the students and others who have experienced harm at Alfred’s hands and I strive never to recreate such harms in my own life or work. To ignore Alfred’s undeniable contributions to the field or refuse to cite to his work would, however, erase not only Alfred, but also the people he has harmed and the work they have done to seek accountability. Instead, I prefer to foreground the conflict. In so doing, I hope to draw attention to the enormous work that our society, and our educational institutions in particular, must do to confront patriarchy and other forms of oppression on an ongoing basis. See e.g., Anna Dodd, “Founding Director of UVic’s Indigenous Governance program says he “embodied toxic masculinity” The Martlet, 7 March 2019, accessed 10 October 2021 at https://www.martlet.ca/professor-taiaiake-alfred-resigns-from-uvic/.
For a complimentary analysis of UNDRIP see (Asch 2019).
(Coulthard 2014, especially chps. 1 and 2). Coulthard does not discuss UNDRIP but complementary accounts can be found in Barsh, “International Law” and Asch, “UNDRIP”.
For a discussion of ‘the turn away’ in the thought of Taiaiake Alfred and Leanne Simpson, See (Coulthard 2014, pp. 154–55).
Instead of thinking of a contact as a singular event occurring in a singular place (when Settlers met Indigenous peoples for the first time on the East coast), Mary Louise Pratt offers the more useful idea of a “contact zone”—a shifting space of contact that moves over time as Settler populations expand and encounter different nations. See (Pratt 1992, especially p. 4).
For a discussion of changing economies in BC see (Lutz 2009).
Delgamuukw v. British Columbia,  3 S.C.R. 1010,  153 DLR (4th).
Delgamuukw at 7. For discussion see (Borrows and Rotman 2012, p. 245). Note also that the issue of whether title had been proven was sent to retrial, leaving the Wet’suwet’en without even this.
BC Treaty Commission, “Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs Table” accessed 5 March 2020 https://www.bctreaty.ca/wetsuweten-hereditary-chiefs#:~:text=Wet’suwet’en%20traditional%20territory,%2C%20Tsimshian%2C%20and%20Lake%20Babine.
Unist’ot’en Camp, “Timeline of the Campaign” accessed 5 March 2020 http://unistoten.camp/timeline/timeline-of-the-campaign/.
Unist’ot’en Camp, “Background of the Campaign” https://unistoten.camp/no-pipelines/background-of-the-campaign/ (accessed on 1 May 2021).
For discussion of the need to positively re-build Indigenous law, see the work of Val Napoleon generally. e.g., (Napoleon 2012).
Of the Haudenosaunee confederacy.
For a considerably more nuanced account of resurgence, reconciliation and the manifold relationships between them see (Tully et al. 2018).
Or at least intersectionalizing- as we will see, many of the movement under consideration continue to struggle to become more intersectional and pluralist over time. Intersectionality is not, in this sense, a static attribute, but rather an ongoing and always imperfect process.
ILBPP leader Bobby Seale as quoted in (Illuzzi 2020, p. 75).
For a series of examples of how 15M grappled with a variety of intersectional concerns, esepceally regarding gender, regional identity, and migration status see (Ouziel Forthcoming b, especially p. 71, 104, 119–20, 165, 167).
As a result, politicians, media and academics have portrayed the Wet’suwet’en and their supporters as threats to the rule of law and indeed, to democracy itself, portraying the movement in much the same way that populist movements are often portrayed. For thoughtful discussion of this point see e.g., (Seatter and Turner 2020; Gunn and McIvor 2020; Hyslop 2020).
For example, traditional Wet’suwet’en leaders laid down a set of ‘supporter protocols’ that allies are asked to conform to. See Unist’ot’en Camp, “Supporter Protocols” https://unistoten.camp/supportertoolkit2020/ (accessed on 1 May 2021).
In fact, this affinity may help explain, in part, why the call to “Shut Down Canada” received such an unprecedented level of support from Settler allies across the country. Because the resurgence of Wet’suwet’en law and governance proceeds ‘from below’, it may have natural resonance with Settlers who are also engaged in populist contestation from below, creating fertile ground for widespread solidarity in this ‘populist moment’. Indeed, Swain stresses the complementarity between Settler politics ‘from below’ and Indigenous resurgence movements. (Swain forthcoming).
Several authors have taken up the term ‘populism from below’, though few have used it in a sense comparable to the one developed here. For instance, Andrade uses the term in reference to economic class, where populism ‘from below’ embraces policies which are in the interest of the poor and varieties ‘from above’ are in the interest of the elite. Similarly, Richards uses the term to signal parties who leaders are from the lower classes, rather than the upper classes. Brentin and Trošt discus populism ‘from below’ as a sort of academic orientation, where studies ‘from above’ focus on formal political institutions and studies ‘from below’ explore the pop cultural elements of populism. Of the authors surveyed, only Tarragoni uses the term in way that is comparable to the sense developed in this paper. In their exploration of Chavist populism, Tarragoni distinguishes between the top-down populism of the state, and it’s counterpart in the grassroots self-organization of poor communities. Here, populism ‘from below’ bears the same participatory, disaggregating/inclusionary, and constructive dimensions stressed in my own account. See (Andrade 2020; Richards 1981; Brentin and Trošt 2016; Tarragoni 2019).
(Mouffe 2018, p. 18). For a similar account of Mouffe to my own, and one to which I am greatly indebted, see (Ouziel Forthcoming b, especially Chapter 4 and the Conclusions).
“I think the Indignados and Occupy had commonalities in their rejection of institutions, political parties and trade unions. Theirs was a purely horizontalist perspective and I think it missed the fact that building hegemony must necessarily pass through the state. I am not defending in any way that politics is limited to the parliamentary sphere. The horizontal dimension is very important, but to have a real impact and transform things a vertical element needs to be articulated. Its objective being one of ‘becoming state’.” (Mouffe forthcoming, p. 105).
“Some theorists say that the problem is with representative democracy per se. Following from this, they suggest that the solution to the current crisis is the elaboration of models of direct democracy. I see it differently, I think that the problem of our crisis of representation is that our societies are not representative enough; there are numerous sectors of the society that do not have a voice. This is, I think, a consequence of our democracies no longer being agonistic. When people think there is no left and right anymore, then there are no alternatives. Therefore, what we need to do in this conjuncture is to re-establish partisanship”. Chantal Mouffe, “Agonistic Representative Democracy” at 109. She continues on 112: “To put into practice a pluralist democracy one needs representative institutions to give an institutional form to pluralism. This is why I think political parties are key if we want to have an agonistic democracy”.
For a discussion of the mismatch between Indigenous demands and statist responses see (Day 2001).
This is not to deny that there are meaningful differences between a right wing government and a left wing government, both in terms of policy and procedure and in terms of their approaches to diversity and decolonization more specifically. However, both left nor right statists embrace a form of state-managed pluralism, and thus both are potentially prone to authoritarian tendencies. In this sense, both remain committed a basic relation between state and subject which is precisely what politics ‘from below’ throws into question.
(Ouziel Forthcoming b). See a useful table comparing these approaches at X.
For example, the exemplars of politics from below in this paper have been overwhelming left-wing projects. However, the alt-right is increasingly experimenting with political strategies that might be considered, in some sense, to proceed from below. Tracing the contours of such right-wing projects from below, and their relation to pluralism, may challenge some of the conclusions drawn here. This, however, is precisely the point. By viewing such movements as not only right-wing, but also as potentially proceeding from below, we open new conceptual possibilities to understand these movements, their orientation to the state, their orientation to pluralism, and their relation to other movements across the political spectrum.
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