Sovereignty, Indigeneity, and Biopower: The Carceral Trajectories of Canada's Forced Removals of Indigenous Children and the Contemporary Prison System

David MacDonald, Jacqueline Gillis


For seven generations, the Canadian settler state sought to take Indigenous children from their parents and home communities, to a network of residential schools, where the goal of the state and the four main Christians churches was to destroy all that was Indigenous in these children. A key purpose was to make Indigenous peoples, alongside their sovereign rights to land, language, spirituality, and governance disappear. As this system wound down, forcible transfer shifted to forcing Indigenous children into foster and institutional “care”, a process known as the “60s scoop”. These forms of child incarceration have a link to extremely high rates of Indigenous imprisonment in Canada’s settler colonial justice system. In this article we deploy a modified Foucauldian understanding of carceral politics to explore the history and intent behind the IRS system, the 60s scoop, and the prison system in Canada.


Indigenous Peoples; Imprisonment; Reconciliation; Canada; Foucault;

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