A new article of mine has been published by the peer-reviewed journal aboriginal policy studies. In this piece I deconstruct the notion that Canada is a country that finds its origins in the mixing of Indigenous and European cultures, a claim popular with many Canadian studies scholars. I argue instead that this ‘metis Canada’ thesis only takes us further away from the treaty relationships envisioned by our ancestors, which protected the political independence of Indigenous peoples and Canadians alike.
The historical narrative around Métis political leader Louis Riel has undergone a extraordinary change since the 1960s—once reviled by Anglo-Canadians, Riel is now paradoxically celebrated as a Canadian hero, and this “Riel-as-Canadian” narrative has become a common trope in contemporary Canadian political culture. Emanating from the Canadianization of Louis Riel is a parallel colonial discourse that distances itself from past attempts to assimilate Indigenous people into Canada, arguing instead for the assimilation of Canadians into a pan-Indigenous political identity. Central to this dialogue is a discourse on “métissage” and “Canadian métisness” that is heralded as the founding myth of Canada. This paper deconstructs this logic, as put forward by Jennifer Reid in Louis Riel and the Creation of Modern Canada and John Ralston Saul in A Fair Country. Both works uncritically assume that Canada’s colonial problem is largely a failure of non-Indigenous people to embrace their underlying Indigenous political identity and acclimate themselves to this continent as a people of mixed political descent. This claim, however, is simply an inversion of colonization, a re-hashing of age-old colonial fantasies of unity, and an attempt to unite all the Indigenous and non-Indigenous polities in Canadian territory under a single sovereign entity—Canada.