Rights and tragedy: a look at human rights discourse in the context of indigenous/settler relations in Canada




Johnston, Caitlin Patricia

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For many people across the world human rights are understood as a modern discourse of emancipated humanism. What is less understood is how human rights, in certain contexts, can be more useless than useful, more harmful than helpful. This thesis argues that human rights, in the context of Indigenous/Settler relations in Canada, are limited. Human rights in the context of Indigenous/Settler relations in Canada are often construed as a conflict between individual versus collective human rights. This binary framework distracts from the more important question of how rights operate in a colonial context and how they fail to address the material inequity and psychological dysfunction that stems from colonial domination and present day colonial processes. This thesis argues that in order to understand the symbiosis between rights and tragedy we must first look at the context in which human rights are being used and question the actual work they are doing, in this case, for Indigenous peoples living on reserve in Canada.



human rights, indigenous, colonialism, aboriginal, Canada, first nations