Landed Legitimacy: The Private Law Roots of Land in Public International Law


In this age of “reconciliation”, Canadian society is awash in discussions of Indigenous-Settler relations. These are inherently international relations, yet those who study global affairs have yet to fully contend with this fact. What are the conceptual barriers that need interrogating, complicating, or dismantling in order to achieve this? I begin with the international law of the subject at the heart of Indigenous-Settler conflict and contestation: land.

 This study will make use of new scholarship that stresses the centrality of property law in the development of international law in the age of Empire, arguing that the public international laws of territory and sovereignty were highly influenced by various traditions of private law and that indeed it is the private law that may offer more meaningful explanations for how the dispossession of Indigenous peoples came to be recognized as legitimate. While drawing on legal history, this work is firmly focused on the policy- and law-making futures of sovereignty, jurisdiction, and governance. Drawing on theories of international law and security, this research hopes to offer new ways of thinking about land as property, territory, and home in contemporary Canada.