(Un)Settling Canada: Multiculturalism and the erasure of Indigenous geographies

Authors: Mary-Kay Bachour*, University of Toronto
Topics: Ethnicity and Race, Indigenous Peoples
Keywords: white settler-colonialism, multiculturalism, Toronto, Indigenous land, resettlement programs
Session Type: Paper


This paper engages with theoretical debates on multiculturalism and the nation-state in the context of Canada. I argue that much of the scholarship critiquing multiculturalism does not engage with analyses of settler-colonialism. I aim to underscore the ways in which multiculturalism as a discourse and policy has been strategically used, and continues to be used, as part of a Canadian settler-colonial structure to divide racialized and colonized peoples. When reading current dominant narratives surrounding the acceptance of Syrian refugees in relation to continued cessions of Indigenous land, a greater understanding of multicultural policy and expanding settler-colonial geographies can be made. The main question I wish to investigate in this paper is: How does the Canadian nation-state erase geographies of indigeneity through multicultural policies and practices? For the purposes of this paper, I will: a) offer a policy analysis of the 1971 Multicultural Act and the 1969 White Paper policy; b) present a discourse analysis of recent news outlets focusing on both Canada’s acceptance of Syrian refugees and its commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; c) open a larger dialogue focused on the relationship between Canadian resettlement programs and Indigenous claims to land in Toronto as it relates to erasures of Indigenous geographies in the city. By offering a multi-scalar analysis of multiculturalism, I hope to bridge conversations between anti-racist critiques of multiculturalism with Indigenous scholarship on white-settler colonialism.

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