Enfranchisement was the legal process for an individual or community to end their legal status as “Indians” under the Indian Act. The Canadian government hoped it would break up bands before assimilating them into settler society. This article aims to excavate the untold story of this attempt to extinguish special “Indian” status in the nineteenth century. It first traces enfranchisement as part of a Victorian discourse of civilization and as a specific Canadian legal process for the assimilation of “Indian” subjects. It then uses new archival sources to tell the untold story of the politics of enfranchisement over the second half of the nineteenth century. The article concludes with the strange case of Doctor Oronhyatekha (aka Mr. Martin). His story is of one exceptional individual’s attempt to pursue an alter”Indian” enfranchisement can help us better appreciate what is at stake in contemporary questions of belonging within the agonistic relationships of the Canadian and Indigenous constitutional orders.
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"Paradises Lost? The Constitutional Politics of “Indian” Enfranchisement in Canada, 1857–1900."
Osgoode Hall Law Journal