June 21st, is National Aboriginal Day. In recognition of this holiday, the PCAA asked MPC 2015 alumni, Taylor MacLean, to discuss her Major Research Project (MRP) First Occupants: The Erosion of Indigenous Sovereignty Through Legal Narratives. Supervised by Dr. Joanne DiNova, Taylor's project explores the relationship of the Canadian judicial system with Indigenous populations.
When asked about the key findings of her research, Taylor explained:
“My MRP uses concepts from critical race theory and law and literature studies to look at the Supreme Court ruling of Tsilhqot;in v. British Columbia. This 2014 land claim case was ground-breaking because the Tsilhqot’in Nation became the first nation in Canadian history to be granted Aboriginal title of their territory.
“While analyzing the 60-page ruling, I focused on how the Supreme Court handles Indigenous sovereignty: the idea that Indigenous communities within Canada are themselves sovereign nations that are entitled to legal and political autonomy. By using narrative analysis, I could peel away the layers of judicial jargon to find stories that represent clear and accessible truths about how our legal system determines who advances and thrives, who has power and control, and whose worldviews and cultural protocols are valued and upheld.
“In the end, I found that Canadian legal discourse undermines Indigenous sovereignty through concealed narrative acts. Put simply, stories are woven to justify legal decisions that are based on racial discrimination. The Tsilhqot’in judicial ruling, no matter how ground-breaking, reinforces the idea that Indigenous people are Crown subjects rather than sovereign nations.”
MPC alumni have a variety of reasons for choosing their research topics, with Taylor's inspiration coming from her previous discipline:
“I did my undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto in Indigenous studies, and for two years I worked as the communications coordinator for the Centre for Indigenous Studies. Studying and working at CIS, I learned about Indigenous worldviews and the political, social, and legal issues facing communities. But I also learned a lot about Western culture. When we’re immersed in our way of seeing the world, it’s easy to forget that others may not share the same vision. As a non-Indigenous person of European ancestry, Western philosophies and ideologies were invisible to me. The Canadian legal system represents the philosophies and values of my culture, so I wanted to understand it better. Specifically, I wanted to know how the laws of my culture have supported the dispossession of Indigenous lands and territories.”
When asked her if she had any advice for current students, Taylor had this to share:
“Success in the field of communication requires curiosity. Curiosity helps us build knowledge and improve skills. It keeps our eyes open for good stories. And it lets us see the world through eyes that aren’t our own. With a curious mind, we can communicate in ways that build bridges instead of walls.”
Taylor is currently a principal and content strategist with Flyleaf, a business that she started since graduating from Ryerson. Flyleaf is a creative studio specializing in content strategy and content creation. They treat content marketing as digital art direction, constructing unique digital experiences and telling brand stories that stand apart from the crowd.