Indigenous workers have international rights: David Meren, ‘Safeguarding Settler Colonialism in Geneva: Canada, Indigenous Rights, and ilo Convention No. 107 on the Protection and Integration of Indigenous Peoples (1957)’, The Canadian Historical Review, 2021


Abstract: This article explores the intersecting of liberal internationalism and settler colonialism by tracing the Canadian governmental response to the emergence of International Labour Organisation (ilo) Convention 107 (1957) and Recommendation 104 (1957), the first international treaties regarding the rights of Indigenous Peoples in independent states. Drawing upon the archives of the ilo, Canada’s Department of External Affairs and Department of Citizenship and Immigration, notably the latter’s Indian Affairs Branch, the article investigates the convergence of mid-twentieth-century notions of Indigenous rights and the global phenomenon of “development”. It also explores how, amid anti-colonial resistance, decolonization, and an emerging international human rights regime, settler states responded, not least by seeking to blunt if not defeat the ilo initiative. In addition to yielding greater understanding of the origins and emergence of the ilo instruments, this analysis contributes to critical interrogations of Canadian liberal internationalism by revealing how Canadian settler preoccupations were projected abroad and shaped the international system’s evolving treatment of Indigenous Peoples. It also offers a different perspective on Canadian Indian policy by revealing the “global” dimension of an allegedly “domestic” question. Finally, the article highlights a parallel history of Indigenous internationalism speaking back to a world order constructed on Indigenous displacement and dispossession.

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