montsion on canada’s first nations and china


Jean Michel Montsion, ‘Disrupting Canadian sovereignty? The ‘First Nations & China’ strategy revisited’, Geoforum 58 (2015).

In response to foreign investors’ growing interest in Canadian natural resources, British Columbia (BC) First Nations created the First Nations Energy and Mining Council (FNEMC) in 2006 in order to foster direct, independent and collaborative relations between indigenous peoples and investors. In 2011, the FNEMC launched the First Nations & China: Transforming Relationships strategy to facilitate two-way investment between First Nations and Chinese businesses, and to represent the interests of BC First Nations in cases in which they perceived the Canadian state and Canadian investors are not adequately representing their interests. This strategy is an interesting case of indigenous self-affirmation because it disrupts the narrative of Canadian state sovereignty. It does so to position BC First Nations as legitimate and central interlocutors for Chinese investors who are interested in resource extraction on traditional indigenous lands. To better understand the strategy’s impact on Canada–China relations, I focus on the spatial dimensions of the First Nations & China strategy. Specifically, I situate the strategy in the context of BC First Nations’ history of political organization, and analyze the discursive practices surrounding the strategy’s launch. I draw from the various spatial dimensions associated with contentious politics – scale, place, network, positionality and mobility – to argue that the First Nations & China strategy opens Canada–China diplomatic relations for participation of BC First Nations by producing a ‘third space of sovereignty’ while also opposing Canada’s sovereign claims and control over territory, resources and diplomacy.

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