Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Common debates over government-police relations share a certain structure – the main realm of contention revolves around questions about how to resolve tension between the concern that the police should be free to act independent of political interference and the concern that the police should, in a liberal democracy, be held accountable for their actions. This paper looks at this tension in the context of state- Aboriginal relations, a process of contextualization that casts a critical eye on the efficacy of the typical forms of analysis that arise from this debate.

The first stage of analysis provides a contrast for the process of critical contextualization, as the question of police-government relations in the context of Aboriginal policing issues is treated as if the context introduced no particular or unique problems. At this first stage Aboriginal peoples in Canada are conceptualized as ‘minority populations’ within a liberal democracy, possessed of the rights enjoyed by other disadvantaged minority groups.

The second two stages progressively critique this position, introducing first factors related to Aboriginal people’s unique legal and constitutional status in Canada, and then factors relating to Aboriginal people’s distinctive historical (and thereby necessarily political) status in relation to the Canadian state.

This form of contextual analysis is critical to making sense of the appropriate relation between the police and the Canadian government when these two bodies intersect with the interests of both Aboriginal nations and Aboriginal individuals within Canada. It is also critically important when attention is turned to particular disputes, for no scenario played out in the arena of Canadian-Aboriginal relations can be adequately understood apart from its place within the larger legal, constitutional, historical and political landscape.