“Won’t you be my neighbour?” Urban Reserves, Treaty Settlements Lands and the Discursive Construction of Indigenous-Municipal Planning Relations — ASN Events

“Won’t you be my neighbour?” Urban Reserves, Treaty Settlements Lands and the Discursive Construction of Indigenous-Municipal Planning Relations (14509)

Janice Barry

Although First Nation reserves were at least partially intended to ‘shield’ Indigenous peoples from the social, political and economic life of Canada’s colonial cities, these cities have now grown - often right up to or completely surrounding many reserves. Yet, urban expansion is not the only mechanism through which municipalities and First Nations are brought closer together. Ongoing land claim negotiations are resulting in the creation of new “zones of contact”1  – particularly in the Province of British Columbia, which is almost exclusively composed of unceeded Indigenous territory and is now the subject of an extensive process of modern treaty-making. These negotiations have the potential to generate new areas of Indigenous self-government within or immediately adjacent to existing towns and cities. In the Prairie Provinces (where there are historic treaties), unfulfilled treaty obligations are leading to the creation of entirely new ‘urban reserves’. In the face of such dramatic change, government agencies and lobby groups across the country have produced numerous discussion papers and toolkits, all implicitly or explicitly intended to help municipal and First Nation governments become ‘better neighbours’.

Using the theoretical and methodological insights found in critical discourse and interpretive policy analysis, this paper explores how these documents discursively construct these new zones of contact between municipal and First Nation planners. It examines not just the prevalence of this ‘neighbour-to-neighbour’ discourse, but also begins to explore the deeper meaning of this way of seeing Indigenous-municipal planning relations. The paper explores the ways in which these documents “bound” the recognition of Indigenous rights to the geographic limits of the reserve and to state-based systems of planning3 , potentially foreclosing opportunity for the expression of Indigenous modes of land use planning. The paper concludes with a very preliminary discussion of possible alternatives to the neighbour-to-neighbour discourse, drawing upon insights found in more critical readings of the treaty relationship2  and subsequent calls for the coexistence of Indigenous and non-Indigenous governance systems.

  1. Barry, J & L Porter. 2012. Indigenous Recognition in State-Based Planning Systems: Understanding Textual Mediation in the Contact Zone. Planning Theory 11(2): 170-187.
  2. Craft, A. 2013. Breathing Life into the Stone Fort Treaty: An Anishnabe Understanding of Treaty One. Saskatoon: Purich.
  3. Porter, L & J Barry. 2013. Bounded Recognition: Urban Planning and the Textual Recognition of Indigenous Rights in Canada and Australia. Paper presented at AESOP-ACSP Joint Congress, Dublin.