Food for Thought: CLS, Racism, and Law

This week marked our first of three teach-in weeks, with two teach-ins based on works by Monture (2006) and Jakubowski (2006).

Locating Law – Standing Against Canadian Law: Naming Omissions of Race, Culture, and Gender (Monture), pp. 73-93

Locating Law – “Managing” Canadian Immigration: Racism, Ethnic Selectivity, and the Law (Jakubowski), pp. 94-122

The general theme of the class was an introduction to Critical Legal Studies, with a special emphasis on racism and law.

There are two food for thought questions for this week. You are welcome to write a post in response to either of them (but not both).

Food for thought 1:

Monture’s (2006) chapter is subtitled “Naming Omissions of Race, Culture, and Gender”. ‘Naming’, in this context, reflects the commitment to demystification – critically examining official narratives and dominant ideologies – that informs the Critical Legal Studies and Critical Race Theory perspectives.

Recently, and not for the first time, there has been some debate regarding the appropriate way of naming the historical oppression of Aboriginal peoples in Canada. Some have argued that the actions of Canadian governments in relation to Aboriginal peoples constitute genocide, according to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Article 2 of the Convention reads:

genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Phil Fontaine, Bernie Farber, and others recently co-signed a letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples arguing that the residential school system, the ‘Sixties Scoop’, policy of forced starvation under John A. MacDonald, and recently revealed nutrition experiments performed on children, taken together, are indicative of a prolonged campaign of genocide.

Monture (2006) explains the historical role of legal processes in the reproduction of systemic racism and oppression directed towards Canada’s Aboriginal peoples. She is deeply skeptical about the prospect of achieving transformative change through the mainstream justice system, arguing that it is simply incapable of engaging in the macro-level reflection necessary to confront structural racism.

Question: Would naming the historical oppression of Aboriginal peoples in Canada genocide, according to the Convention, be an act of demystification? What would be the outcome or effect of such an act of naming? How do you think Monture, based on her argument in Standing Against Canadian Law, might respond to this call to employ the moral and legal language of genocide? What is your own position on this question?

Of interest: Andrew Woolford’s article on ‘Ontological Destruction’

Food for Thought 2:

Lisa Marie Jakubowski, in her chapter “‘Managing’ Canadian Immigration”, explores the explicitly racist history of Canadian immigration policy and the role of immigration law in perpetuating forms of systemic discrimination.

The 2010 MV Sun Sea incident represents a major ‘moment’ in recent Canadian immigration policy and politics.

Question: First, provide a brief description of the events surrounding the arrival of the MV Sun Sea. Then, briefly explain any shifts in immigration policy that followed from the incident (including policies and laws associeted with the issue of ‘irregular arrivals’). Finally, apply Jakubowski’s arguments to this case. Has the response to the MV Sun Sea incident represented a continuation of the pattern that Jakubowski describes?

Posts in response to these questions should be submitted before our next class.

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