Settler Colonial and Indigenous Geographies

Refusing to relinquish: How settler Canada uses race, property, and jurisdiction to undermine urban Indigenous land reclamation

Critiques of settler colonial urbanism have paid close attention to the political work that property and racism do in materializing settler colonial cities and naturalizing settler control over urban land and resources. We contribute to these debates by examining how the co-production of property and race intersects with jurisdiction to secure white possession against the demands of an urban Indigenous land reclamation in Canada’s national capital. Drawing on an analysis of government records obtained using Access to Information and Privacy requests, key informant interviews, and a three-year engagement with land defenders and allies, we demonstrate how property and jurisdiction carved the contested space into distinct spheres of settler governing authority. The need to confront the singularity of each governing authority on its own terms made it impossible to directly contest ongoing dispossession as a singular process involving the entire site. Instead, organizers and activists were forced to fight for separate pieces of land, dividing limited time, energy, and resources across multiple facets of a settler colonial structure of invasion. We argue that this process of jurisdictional fragmentation, which organized the co-production of property and race in defence of white possession, can be productively understood as a process of fortification.

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Volume 40 Issue 3

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