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Anne van der Pas


Lansstraße 5-9
14195 Berlin

(In)voluntary Enfranchisement: The Institutionalisation of Indigenous Identity in Canadian Governmental Policy, 1876 – 1985 (Dissertationsprojekt)

Dissertation in History

Mentoring Team:
First supervisor: Prof. Sebastian Jobs
Second supervisor: N/A
Third supervisor: N/A

For over a century, the policy of enfranchisement determined the legal definition of the term ‘Indian’ in Canada. This policy, which deprived Indigenous Canadians of their so-called ‘Indian status’ and the associated treaty rights in exchange for full Canadian citizenship, was not revoked until 1985, after an intense legal and political struggle brought its assimilationist and discriminatory provisions to international attention.

While some First Nations people, often motivated by economic reasons, voluntarily applied for enfranchisement, the vast majority of Indigenous Canadians who lost their Indian status in the period between 1876 and 1985 were enfranchised involuntarily, for example through marriage to a non-Indian man, by serving in the Canadian armed forces, or as a result of completing higher education. In order to investigate the role of enfranchisement within the larger Canadian federal Indian policy and its function in relation to the paternalistic, patriarchal, assimilationist policy goals of the Canadian government, I utilize a policy community approach to analyse the creation and amendment process of the voluntary and involuntary enfranchisement policy. Focusing on three key groups within the policy making process, namely federal officials, local and provincial officials, and First Nations officials and activists, I ask the following research questions:

1) How did the policy of enfranchisement, both voluntary and involuntary, change and evolve over its lifetime and how does this relate to evolving Euro-Canadian political ideas regarding the assimilation or ‘integration’ of Indigenous peoples?

2) As the ultimate enforcers of the policy, what role did local and provincial government officials and local Indian affairs officials play in the policy making process?

3) How did Indigenous governments, politicians and activists embrace, reject, utilise or manipulate the policy of enfranchisement to achieve their policy goals?

4) What was the role of concepts of citizenship, indigeneity, whiteness and civilization in the various incarnations of the policy?

Dahlem Research School
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft