- “Equality Is Not a High Standard” Patricia Monture: 1958–2010
Haudenosaunee and intensely proud of it, Patricia Monture was an extraordinary legal scholar and feminist academic to whom this issue of the journal is respectfully dedicated. We mourn her death and wish to recognize her important contributions to anti-colonial, anti-racist feminist theory and practice. Many obituaries have been written about Patricia, all stressing her singular role in calling the law to account.1 I will not attempt to repeat the details of her accomplishments. Instead, I want to remember a friend and co-conspirator on issues involving women and the law. Patricia was an early supporter of this journal, sitting on the board from the late 1980s. As someone who joined the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law (CJWL) when she did, I vividly remember Patricia during those early meetings when several of us called the journal to account for its failure to publish articles that included attention to race and colonialism.2 She was passionate yet calm and steady about what needed to be done. She would be frustrated that the battle has not been won (as Rakhi Ruparelia’s article in this issue concludes), but I am guessing that she would have continued to coach the rest of us in the art of making an anti-colonial feminist journal.
Patricia always dared to dream in brighter colours than the rest of us. She once reduced me to tears on a panel when she simply asked the question “what would Brown and Black spaces look like in a university?” and proceeded to describe a place of learning where all would be welcome. Her commitment to an anti-colonial, anti-racist feminism was reflected in her activities as a founding member of Researchers and Academics of Colour for Equality (RACE). In the last month of her life, she reluctantly sent her regrets for not attending the tenth anniversary [End Page i] conference of RACE in Edmonton and managed to put together a panel of Aboriginal scholars despite her illness.
Patricia Monture unfailingly offered sisterhood and solidarity. My own article in this issue benefited from her help. She supported my project exploring Aboriginal deaths in custody and even personally drove me around Saskatoon to meet with lawyers who represented Aboriginal families during inquests. There are many feminist scholars and activists doing anti-colonial work who could tell a similar story about Patricia’s generosity. Of course, it was not only Patricia Monture’s capacity for friendship and solidarity that left its imprint on our souls. Her writing also profoundly shaped feminist anti-colonial struggles in Canada. From Thunder in My Soul: A Mohawk Woman Speaks and Journeying Forward: Dreaming First Nations’ Independence to the anthology she edited with Patricia McGuire, First Voices: An Aboriginal Women’s Reader, we learned to walk an anti-colonial path in politics, holding the hand of a feminist scholar who announced early on that equality with men was not a high enough standard for her.3 Without sovereignty, gender equality means nothing to Aboriginal women. Patricia believed deeply that only the knowledge of the many Aboriginal communities would allow Aboriginal people to make progress. Women were key players in the project of decolonization, but their efforts had to be linked to the survival of their communities and were not simply about gender discrimination.
The articles in this issue pay respect to the ideas of Patricia Monture in several ways. Aimée Craft begins by exploring treatises as law. Arguing that treaties should be read alongside the written record, oral histories, and Indigenous knowledge, Craft demonstrates this methodology, producing an Anishinaabe perspective on Treaty One. Such a perspective uncovers the context of the treaty in ways that a straightforward reading of the written text does not, enabling us to understand its intent. Craft shares something with Patricia Monture who declared some time ago that solutions to transforming the settler colonial state “are located in the collective memory of my people and our ancestors.”4 Martin Cannon tackles the issue of the relationship between sexism and racism through an exploration of McIvor v The Registrar, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (2007 and...