- Introduction:Destabilizing Canada/Le Canada déstabilisé
The year 2017 has been a powerful reminder that ideas of Canada are contested. While the federal government budgeted for half a billion dollars to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation on 1 July (Hannay 2017), support and enthusiasm have been far from widespread, and criticism has been vocal. Rather than expressing nationalism or pride, many have rejected efforts to depict Confederation as a unifying moment of success, "progress," and accomplishment. Instead, a number of groups and individuals, including the Idle No More movement (Idle No More 2017), artists Christi Belcourt (2017) and Kent Monkman (Morgan-Feir 2017), comedian Ryan McMahon (n.d.), and General Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (Lambert 2017), to name only a few, have responded to Canada 150 by highlighting the profound inequalities, injustices, and discrimination that run through settler-Canada's past and present and, in the process, have peeled back the thin skin of nationalistic narratives and celebratory portrayals of Confederation. Idle No More and Defenders of the Land encouraged supporters to hold a national day of action to resist Canada 150 and insist on Indigenous self-determination, while a coffee shop sign in Nova Scotia read "Canada 150 Mi'Kma'Ki 13,000" (CBC News 2017). These acts and expressions inspire deeper thinking and reflection on the meaning of Canada and of settler–Indigenous relations, and highlight what some feel is a need for substantive change. Clearly, how Canada is perceived, portrayed, and understood is far from settled a century and a half after Confederation.
Amidst growing movements of Indigenous voices, resistance, and self-determination, the questioning of Canada in various manifestations—as a constructed geopolitical entity, a thematic field upon which to organize an academic department of study, an extractor of natural resources, a new home for immigrants and refugees, or a source of foreign aid—is especially pertinent. From the occupation of unceded Indigenous ancestral territories to the construction of pipelines, fracking, and the exploitation of natural resources, Canada's past and present are both unsettled and unsettling (to borrow from the title of the 2015 book Unsettling Canada: A National Wake-Up Call, by Arthur Manuel and Grand Chief Ronald M. Derrickson), and remain so in spite of the country's sesquicentennial anniversary. Regardless of [End Page 1] whether individuals celebrate or resist Canada 150, it is undeniable that movements for change have been growing. However, as Manuel teaches us in an especially poignant passage from a chapter reprinted in this special issue, those living on this land should not be afraid of facing issues of injustice. He writes, "To Canadians who fear the changes that this will bring to the country, I can only say to them that there is no downside to justice" (2015, 226).
This theme issue of the Journal of Canadian Studies / Revue d'études canadiennes is inspired by a particular historical juncture that, on the one hand, resonates with calls to question assumptions, raise awareness, facilitate redress, and bring about fundamental change in forging a more just path forward, but, on the other hand, remains riddled with stasis, paradox, and inconsistency. For example, in spite of a liberal rhetoric of reconciliation and a new nation-to-nation relationship between the settler state and Indigenous nations, problematic and discriminatory attitudes and policies persist. In March 2017, for example, Senator Lynn Beyak seemingly disregarded the extensive documentation on the Indian Residential School system brought forward in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission when she stated that "good deeds and historical tales in the residential schools go unacknowledged for the most part and are overshadowed by negative reports.… [I]t is unfortunate that they are sometimes magnified and considered more newsworthy than the abundance of good" (Senate 2017). Meanwhile, Governor General David Johnston undermined the idea of nation-to-nation relationships when he referred to Indigenous people as "immigrants" in June 2017 (Tasker 2017); in the same month, anti-immigration sentiments harking back to the early twentieth century were expressed by Martin Collacott (2017) in a Vancouver Sun editorial. Collacott's opinion piece argues that Canada may become the first country...