Tag Archives: Critical Legal Studies

Food for Thought: Applying Critical Race Theory

This week, we studied Critical Race Theory, with an emphasis on Michelle Alexander’s (2012) The New Jim Crow as a case study. My lecture notes include the following overview of CRT:

Critical Race Theory shares many of the commitments and ideas of the broader Critical Legal Studies movement – the deconstruction of ideologies (especially legal ideologies) that support social hierarchies, consciousness-raising, and law reform in the pursuit of egalitarian social relations. To this list, we can add a number of key ideas that inform CRT:

  • The recognition that racism is no (simply) a matter of individual prejudices and biases, but a phenomenon embedded in and reproduced by social structures and institutions – including legal institutions.
  • An emphasis on exploring the historical basis of contemporary forms of racism and racialization embedded in law.
  • A commitment to ‘reconstructing’ and reforming law in order to eliminate identifiable forms of racialized hierarchies.
  • A commitment to taking the lived realities and experiences of racialized groups as a starting point for analysis. This implies the use of narrative accounts and interdisciplinary approaches.

For this week’s ‘food for thought’ question, I would like to encourage you to apply CRT to a case study of your choice.

Food for thought:

Select a contemporary or historical example of a legal institution or process involved in the reproduction and perpetuation of racialized social hierarchy. You could focus on a particular statute, a broader legal regime, or an illustrative case study. You need not select a Canadian example. You may not choose ‘racialized mass incarceration in the USA under the New Jim Crow’, as we have covered Alexander’s analysis. You may not choose R. v. Kahpeaysewat, as this was covered by Pavlich (2011).

Write a post that:

  • Introduces and briefly describes the example you have selected, with reference to supporting source materials (this should account for no more than 1/3 of your post).
  • Draws on Critical Race Theory to explain how your selected example is illustrative of the role of law as a mechanism for the reproduction and perpetuation of racialized social hierarchy.
  • Explains how individuals, groups, or movements have responded to this issue by attempting to reform and ‘reconstruct’ law.

Be sure to engage with relevant sources (ex. Pavlich 2011; Comack 2006; Alexander 2012). While you cannot reproduce Alexander’s analysis, you can certainly draw on her observations.

Posts prepared in response to this question must be submitted before class on November 4, 2014.

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Food for Thought: Gender, Sexuality, and the Law

We are reading two chapters from Comack’s (2006) Locating Law this week – One by Karen Busby entitled “Not a Victim Until a Conviction is Entered: Sexual Violence Prosecutions and Legal ‘Truth'”, and another by Kirsten Kramar entitled “Victims of Justice: Homophobia, Ageism, and Whorephobia”. Both chapters explore issues at the intersection of gender, sexuality, power, and law.

In thinking about these chapters, and about the questions posted below, it is helpful to review Comack’s (2006) discussion of ‘the feminist frameworks’ in her essay on “Theoretical Approaches in the Sociology of Law”.

I have two ‘food for thought’ questions for this week.

First, in relation to Homophobia and the Law:

Kramar (2006) uses a case study of the ‘Project Guardian’ operation to explore the social construction of a homophobic moral panic in 1990s Ontario. This study offers a number of examples of ways in which unequal, gendered, and sexualized social relations find expression in law (and law enforcement campaigns). It is important to note that Canadian law, politics, and culture have undergone significant shifts in relation to LGBTQ rights over the last several decades – as evidenced by anti-discrimination laws, hate crime provisions, the legalization of same-sex marriage, and the recognition of adoption rights for same-sex couples (among many other developments).

One of our teach-in groups for this week drew on Kramar’s analysis to examine the ongoing case study of Russia’s new law prohibiting “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations“. The Guardian reports that the passage of this law has contributed to an increase in homophobic violence in Russia; the law sends a message of officially-sanctioned exclusion that has emboldened groups inclined to engage in homophobic violence.

As part of his BBC series ‘Out There’, British broadcaster / comedian / filmmaker / actor / activist Stephen Fry interviewed Russian lawmaker Vitaly Milonov to discuss the new law:

With this week’s food for thought post, I would like to explore the role of law in the social construction of social problems (see Kramar 2006: 286-287).

The questions that should inform your blog post are as follows:

How, in general, does law facilitate the social construction of certain issues or groups as social problems? How does this apply to the Russian law in question? In other words, how does this law facilitate the social construction of a social problem, and what precisely is the nature of the social problem that is constructed through this law?

An English translation of the text and rationale for the law can be found here, and you should refer to this material when writing your post. Your post should also engage with material on the social construction of social problems (Kramar 2006 is a good start). Please also copy-and-paste my question (indented above) at the top of your blog post so that our readers will know what you are responding to.

Second, in relation to Karen Busby’s (2006) article “Not a Victim Until a Conviction is Entered”,

During this week’s teach-in on sexual violence prosecutions and legal ‘truth’, our research team reported on conversations that they had with a Crown prosecutor and a professor specializing in gender and the law. When asked about the nature and prevalence of gender bias in the criminal legal system, both respondents emphasized the complexity of the issue. While they gave different answers, both mentioned the importance of locating gender discrimination in relation to discrimination on the basis of class and race. One suggestion was that women qua women are not discriminated against by the courts during sexual violence prosecutions – rather, women are treated differently on the basis of their social class and race or ethnicity. Without supporting this assertion, I want to highlight it as an important example of the concept of intersectionality.  Intersectionality, as a concept, recognizes the existence of complex and intersecting forms of hierarchy, status, and identity. For instance, it problematizes ‘single-axis’ approaches that examine questions of class without considering the ways that class intersects with gender, race, citizenship, and other categories or modalities.

Fort this week’s food for thought post, first conduct some research on the concept of intersectionality (there are many excellent academic articles available through the KPU library, and Comack addresses the concept in her essay on ‘Theoretical Approaches in the Sociology of Law’). Then write a post that:

  1. Introduces and explains the concept of intersectionality, and describes how it relates to critical legal studies, and;
  2. Uses an example (a case study, news media article, policy, or other phenomenon) to illustrate how the concept of intersectionality can be applied to the study of law & society.

This is a particularly useful question for those of you who are using feminist legal theory, critical legal studies, or critical race theory as your theoretical perspective for your term paper.

Posts in response to this question should be submitted prior to our next class.

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Minimum Wage and Society

Minimum wage positions are typically learning wage positions—they enable workers to gain the skills and knowledge necessary to become more productive on the job. As workers become more productive they command higher pay and move up their career ladder. During the Great Depression, with jobs scarce and many job-seekers, workers frequently found themselves exploited and their wages hitting rock-bottom. In 1938, President Franklin Roosevelt signed into law and “congress instituted the minimum wage… as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act” (Sterk, 2013). The Fair labor Standards Act establishes wage guidelines for businesses with hourly employees. The purpose of the minimum wage during this time was to stabilize the post-depression economy and protect the workers in the labor force. The minimum wage was designed to create a minimum standard of living to protect the health and well-being of employees.  The first minimum wage was set to 25 cents an hour, in 2007 changed to $7.25, reaching its highest in modern times U.S. in Washington State at $9.19. The minimum wage law serves the purpose of establishing a “living wage”–mostly for lower-class families that depend on labor jobs which often pay the least.

Brook and Watkins’ argument against minimum wage explains that “minimum wage doesn’t ensure everyone can earn a living… it doesn’t guarantee that everyone is paid fairly” (Brook & Watkins, 2013). This is a broad statement about minimum wage. Brook and Watkins are simply stating that the minimum wage does not allow one to save/ earn anything, and it denies you the right to decide what pay rate to offer or accept by your employers. Watkins gives a great example of himself when he was seventeen years old as he applied for his first job at the local mall for an entry- level position as a ticket taker at the theatre. He explains how he was offered $5.35, just above the minimum wage at the time, with little to no experience in the work field. The only reason he took the job was because no one else was offering more at the time. If he were offered $5.00 and tried to counter offer to get todays minimum wage of $7.25, he would have never gotten the job. The only reason Watkins accepted the offer of $5.35 was because no one was offering him that much at the time, and with no experience he was eager to start and understood that he was not worth more yet. He knew that it was not about the pay rate. It was about building your resume in order to move up the ladder to earn more than the minimum wage. To conclude Brooke and Watkins’ argument, they state that “it isn’t low pay that’s unfair—it’s preventing people from offering and accepting jobs that are unfair” (Brook & Watkins, 2013). 

There are three major schools of thought that have shaped the study of labour law. The first, Unitarianism—envisions the capitalist labour market as a realm of freedom and an engine of economic growth. The second, Liberal Pluralist—believe that the labour market is characterized by an imbalance of power between the individual worker and the employer. The third, Marxists—argue that capitalism produces crisis and that over time capitalist relations of production (the wage relation) become a restraint on economic development.

In relation to the three schools of thought, Brooke and Watkins’ argument falls under the Unitarianism view. Unitarians see labour laws as the product of special interest groups that have distorted the political and legal process for their own selfish ends. They believe that without labour law workers and employers can share a common set of interests which include maximizing their individual liberty and in gaining from the wealth generated by capitalism. They believe that labour law should provide a legal framework within which workers and employers can freely negotiate the terms of their relationship. In Brooks and Watkins argument that is exactly how they feel. They feel as if the government is sitting there at the interview table with the employer and the job- seeker, but the employer and job- seeker are not the ones negotiating the wage, the government is doing it for them by implementing the minimum wage.

The liberal pluralists claim that capitalist is a powerful engine for producing wealth, however the joint efforts by the workers and employers are not fairly divided and the workers interests and voice are insufficiently recognized and protected. Their counter- argument to the article is that they think for the state to protect vulnerable workers they need to set minimum standards which would produce fairness in the labour market. This kind of delegation of power protects labour law. The article argues that minimum standards does not provide fairness, therefore abolishment of minimum wage is required. The article states that “the problem is that the minimum wage doesn’t ensure everyone can earn a living—it ensures that many of us can’t earn anything. And it doesn’t guarantee that everyone is paid “fairly”—it unfairly denies us the freedom to decide for ourselves what pay to offer or accept” (Brook & Watkins, 2013). It contradicts with the liberal pluralists as they argue for the idea of having labour laws that set out minimum standards, as labour laws do not provide fairness matter of fact it takes freedom away from both the worker and employer to negotiate what pay to accept.

In my opinion, I agree that a person should make a wage according to their skill set and experience. I also believe that minimum wage is necessary as it helps those in poverty. Minimum wage also stops companies from exploiting those with little employment options. I agree with the article as the article states minimum wage takes away freedom from both the worker and employer. However, minimum wage is necessary for the unprivileged group, who do not get to discuss/negotiate their wages with their employers. Minimum wage is required so the employer has a standard of paying his workers. This keeps the employer from abusing the employees’, if the company is losing money the employer cannot just cut the employees’ wages. This was a common issue in the industrial revolution, where the emergence of the labour laws needed to come about and did.

Sources:

Comack, E. (2006). Locating law: race/class/gender/sexuality connections (2nd Ed.). Halifax, NS: Fernwood Pub.

What is Minimum Wage: Its History and Effects on the Economy. (n.d.). The Heritage Foundation. Retrieved November 8, 2013, from http://www.heritage.org/research/testimony/2013/06/what-is-minimum-wage-its-history-and-effects-on-the-economy

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Food for Thought: Class Interests and the Law

We continued our discussion of Critical Legal Studies this week, looking at two studies on class interests and the law – Eric Tucker’s (2006) “Locating Labour Law: The Regulation of Occupational Health and Safety” and Mosher’s (2006) “The Construction of ‘Welfare Fraud’ and the Wielding of the State’s Iron Fist”.

As with last week, I have two food for thought questions for you to dig into.

1. Regarding Labour Law

Tucker (2006) applies unitarian, liberal pluralist, and Marxist theoretical frameworks to make sense of the law (and politics) surrounding the regulation of occupational health and safety. As we discussed in class, occupational health and safety law is one of many legal regimes that apply to labour. Others include legal regulations around collective bargaining, equality of treatment, the length of the work week – and the minimum wage, which is the focus of this food for thought question.

First, please read this article – To Protect The Defenseless, We Must Abolish The Minimum Wage, by Yaron Brook and Don Watkins, from Forbes Magazine.

Then write a food for thought post that does the following:

  1. Briefly explain the origins of the ‘minimum wage’, how this concept has been enshrined in law, and the purpose of the minimum wage.
  2. Briefly summarize Brook and Watkins’ argument against the minimum wage.
  3. Drawing on Tucker (2006) (and other sources if you wish), locate Brook and Watkins’ argument in relation to the three major schools of thought that have shaped the study of labour law. Which school of thought does their argument fit into? Which school of thought would provide a counter-argument?
  4. Conclude by presenting your own response to Brook and Watkins’ position.

2. Regarding the Construction of Welfare Fraud

One of our research teams prepared and delivered a teach-in on the construction of ‘welfare fraud’, drawing on the work of Janet E. Mosher (2006). Their teach-in incorporated a number of statements from people directly involved in and impacted by welfare law, including a single mother on welfare (let’s call her A). This exchange really stood out to me:

[Researcher] Do you think welfare fraud is intentional or accidental?

[A] The system is set up for dependency and fear. When you’re tying to feed your kids and pay rent and utilities and whatnot on the minimal funds they give you , any excess cash or income you make you don’t want to report because it comes off your check and then your kids can’t eat next month. I think that the government has given the welfare agencies the ability and encouraged them to make ‘monsters’ of the people relying on welfare benefits. They are forcing parents to do illegal things, like not report income, just to survive and try and give their kids a better life than what they have. You can’t save any money on welfare because welfare just takes it out of your check”.

Mosher’s analysis of the social construction of welfare fraud is informed by Wacquant’s (2001) observation that “The ‘invisible hand’ of the casualised labour market finds its institutional complement and counterpart in the ‘iron fist’ of the state which is being redeployed so as to check the disorders generated by the diffusion of social insecurity”.

Food for thought:

Respond to A’s remarks. Does this interpretation of the nature and function of the welfare system reflect Mosher’s (2006) analysis?  [You could also choose to relate it to Wacquant’s analysis]. If A’s interpretation of the system is correct, what can we (drawing on Critical Legal Studies) say about the role of welfare law in neoliberal societies?

Posts should be submitted before our next class. 

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Historical Treatment of Aboriginals and Genocide

 

Genocide is defined as the “deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, caste, religious, or national group”.  Genocide is particularly linked with World War II and the mass execution of Jews.  However, the United Nations definition indicates that “causing serious mental or bodily harm towards a group” is an integral component of genocide.  Therefore, when looking at Aboriginals and their history, genocide is represented by colonialism through the exploring, conquering and settling on land.  With the introduction of regulations and policies to “civilize” the Indian, the government caused “serious mental or bodily harm”, therefore the historical treatment of Aboriginals should be legally defined as genocide.

As Europeans arrived in North America, they viewed Aboriginals as being inferior to them in several different ways.  Although Aboriginals had their own governance systems, laws, and ways of living, they were dehumanized and labelled as being savages or beasts by European settlers.  This labelling was a way to rationalize European expansion and exploitation of Aboriginal peoples and their territory.  European westernized ways of thinking assumed that anything non-European represented backward thinking.  Europeans who were directly involved in the fur trade saw and the settling of the land saw that the Aboriginals were a potential threat to any gain of profit or colonization.

Millions of Aboriginals died as they were purposely given blankets that contained small pox (Thorner, 2003).  Aboriginals had never been in contact with these diseases; therefore they did not develop any immunity to them. Diseases that were brought over by Europeans included tuberculosis, measles, venereal disease, influenza and small pox. As a result, these epidemics spread inland through encounters with Europeans and through trade (Thorner, 2003).  Several million Aboriginal people were infected and eventually died.  Therefore one can argue this was a way to reduce the Aboriginal population, so Europeans could expand further into Canada without as much resistance.

Moreover, as the Indian Act was introduced, Aboriginals were pushed to assimilate.  Aboriginals became defined, as Indians were seen as being of status or non-status.  However, several incentives and regulations were introduced that pushed Aboriginals to change their status.  Incentives such as the right to vote were developed through systems of enfranchisement.  Moreover, individuals would lose their status if they became doctors, lawyers and clergy men or even if they acquired a university degree (Monchalin & Marques, 2013).  As Aboriginals were placed on reserves, they were not able to leave the reserve without permission of an Indian Agent.  These men resided over the reserve, and were able to enforce laws that prohibited Potlatches and Sun Dances.  Although these rituals were an integral part of Aboriginal culture, they were banned from reserves.

The introduction of residential schools was an instrumental part of Canadian history, which many have argued was a cultural genocide for Aboriginal children.  These children were forcibly removed from their families and taken to residential schools.  They were required to remove their traditional clothing and to cut their hair.  In addition, they were given English or French names as their more traditional names were not acceptable.  These children were severely and cruelly punished if they spoke their mother tongue.  The education they received was not adequate, and it usually focused on labour training and domestic work (Chansonneuve, 2005).  As a result, individuals who survived these schools were not able to find work that was suitable for further advancement as their abilities were limited.

These children were physically, sexually, emotionally and mentally abused.  They were denied a safe family environment and subjected to severe violence. They were denied the teachings of their parents and of their culture.  As a result, they were not able to understand or acquire the values, attitudes, or beliefs of Aboriginal culture.  Several individuals did not acquire life skills or parenting skills which has impacted their children and their children’s children (Monchalin & Marques, 2013).

Therefore, several individuals turned to substances such as drugs and alcohol to overcome many of these experiences.  This substance abuse has increased crime rates as there is a direct link with alcohol and crime.  Moreover, these individuals are more prone to commit acts of violence, as they have been traumatized by their experiences (Monchalin & Marques, 2013).  As a result, there is a widespread over presentation of Aboriginals in Canadian prisons.  In addition, Aboriginals who rely on substances were more likely to commit suicide (Chansonneuve, 2005).  The rates of suicide amongst Aboriginals are higher than the general population (Howard, 2010). Other factors that are associated with residential schools include disconnected families, families with single parents, and family violence (Monchalin & Marques, 2013).  Family violence and increased rates of poverty have been an instrumental factor in the removal of Aboriginal children from their families.  This then creates more of a disconnect from Aboriginal culture as these children are placed in foster homes.

Thus, through colonization, aggressive assimilation and residential schools, the treatment of Aboriginals should be defined legally as genocide.

References

Howard, C. (2010). Suicide and Aboriginal Youth. Sudbury: Laurentian University.

Thorner, T. (2003). A Few Acres of Snow. Toronto, Canada: Broadview Press.

Chansonneauve, Deborah. (2005). Reclaiming Connections: Understanding Residential School Trauma among Aborginal People.  Section I I: Residential Schools. P.33-48.  Ottawa, ON: Aboriginal Healing Foundation.

Monchalin, L, Marques, O. (2013) Preventing Crime and Poor Health Among Aboriginal People: The Potential for Preventative Programming. First Peoples Child & Family Review, 7(2), 112-29.

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Historical treatment of Aboriginal Canadians and Genocide

 

The term genocide was coined by Raphael Lemkin. It can be defined as the destruction or elimination of a certain groups of people. In terms of the historical treatment of aboriginal people in Canada, it may not seem as genocide on the surface to most people, but to others more familiar with what occurred during this time, it’s indeed genocide because the Canadian government employed several harsh methods to oppress and eliminate aboriginal people.

When thinking of genocide most people assume the extreme forms, like the Holocaust or the genocide in Rwanda were millions of innocent people were killed. This is a misconception people hold, it is not only the mass killing of a certain groups of people, but there is a wide array of other acts that fall under genocide.  According to the United Nations definition of genocide, in addition to the killing of members of a group, it includes causing serious mental or bodily harm towards a group, preventing birth in a group, transferring children by force from the group and imposing conditions designed to physically destroy the group of people (Bolen, 2013). Aboriginal people in Canada faced a form of cultural genocide or ethnocide, as Andrew Woolford states in his article. (Woolford, 2009). It can be defined as cultural genocide because the Canadian government in a way wanted to eliminate the beliefs and traditions of aboriginal people and assimilate them into Canadian culture.

Naming the historical treatment of aboriginal people genocide would indeed be an act of demystification or clarifications. This is the case because it falls into several categories of the conventions definition. Firstly, it falls in the category of forcefully transferring children from their homes. This is the case because the government removed 20 000 aboriginal youth from their homes from 1960 to 1980, these children were eventually adopted by white families (Bolen, 2013). Although, this method of genocide does not employ the method of extreme killing, it is still genocide because the government is removing the future of a group to make sure it does not exist in the future. Secondly, the historical treatment fall under the conventions definition of genocide because, the Canadian government ignored the spread of tuberculosis in residential schools and did not provide significant health care to these children. There were also high levels of malnutrition at these residential schools. This is genocide because thousands of young aboriginal children were killed by disease and the government could have taken steps to reduce the spread of disease, but no action was taken. What the government did was an obvious example of disregard for human life. In addition to death at these residential schools, children were sexually, physically and mentally abused. There were also many children that committed suicide. Finally the government passed policies that starved aboriginal people to make room for immigration. This is genocide because several aboriginal died as a result of this policy and it was targeted towards a particular group. Although all these events did not involve direct killing they all constitute genocide because the goal was to eliminate a culture of people.

The outcome of naming these historic events genocide would be bitter-sweet for native communities, this is because it does not change what happen, but it shows the government is taking greater accountability for their horrific actions against innocent aboriginal people. In my opinion it should already be considered genocide because it falls under the UN definition of genocide, what is the point of having such a descriptive definition of genocide if you ignore event that clearly represent genocide. It is an embarrassment in my opinion that the UN has not recognized these events as genocide; Phil Fontaine and Bernie Farber should not have to write letters to the United Nations for this recognition. The United Nations definition either needs to be revised or the horrific treatment that aboriginal people faced should be recognized as the aboriginal genocide.

Monture would also employ the word genocide because after reading her work she takes a strong stance against the historical oppression of aboriginal people and parts of Canadian law. Several innocent people were killed after these targeted government actions to get rid of aboriginal people. She was previously a lawyer who is use to reading the criminal code, which is sets of rules that help govern society. Similarly the UN convention has an outline of what is considered genocide and the actions of the Canadian government clearly fulfil those categories, so Monture after looking at the definition of genocide would agree it was genocide.  To conclude, my belief is the events need to be recognized as genocide. There also needs to be more teachings in schools about what happen at these residential schools. I have taken several Canadian history courses that do not even mention aboriginal people or residential school experiences. There needs to be a greater inclusion in school curriculum’s of this oppression. To this day there is a negative perception towards aboriginal people from some members of society. The media plays a huge role in the thinking society has towards aboriginal people, for example several television programs portray aboriginal people as constantly intoxicated. This is an example of a prejudice or a pre-judgement people have towards aboriginal people before knowing them. Greater knowledge and education of aboriginal traditions and culture would improve this problem. I admit, I had this problem at one time but, after learning about their culture and talking to aboriginal friends the media portrayal of aboriginal people has been removed from my head.

Link – short video of aboriginal experiences at residential schools

References

Bolen, M. (2013, Oct 18). UN urged to declare Canada’s treatment of aboriginals ‘genocide’. The Huffington Post Canada. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/10/18/genocide-first-nations-aboriginals-canada-un_n_4123112.html

Monture, P. (2006). Standing against Canadian law: Naming omissions of race, culture and gender. In E. Comack (Ed.), Locating law (2 ed., pp. 73-93). Halifax: Fernwood Publishing.

Woolford, A. (2009). Ontological destruction: Genocide and Canadian aboriginal peoples. Genocide Studies and Prevention4(1), 81-97. Retrieved from http://aboriginalhealingincanada.com/resources/4-1.1.woolford.pdf

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by | November 3, 2013 · 11:17 pm

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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