Strategic Diplomacies: Indigenous Governance, International Politics, and Natural Resources in Canada
International Relations theory would predict that central governments, with their considerable material resources, would be unlikely to face a challenge from a substate government. However, substate governments, and particularly Indigenous governments, are pushing back against central government control in both domestic and international spheres. Indigenous governments are leveraging their local mining sectors to realize their interests and express local identities—interests and identities that may not be congruent with those of the central government. Applying the case study of the resource extraction sector in Canada, this thesis asks: under what conditions are substate governments able to challenge the authority of central governments in the international arena? Canada’s reliance on the global extractive resource sector is a major driver of its international policy preferences, but the increased engagement of Indigenous governments in the sector challenges the control of the federal government. Focusing on the resource extraction sectors in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Ontario, this thesis argues that there is a mutually reinforcing relationship between Indigenous governments’ international engagement and their domestic autonomy; both challenge the parameters of state authority. Both force the state to respond to claims of control from multiple sites and to clarify convoluted policy environments. A confluence of factors—including increased Indigenous connections to the globalized economy, new Canadian regulatory frameworks, and recent Supreme Court of Canada cases regarding Indigenous lands—have all altered the space in which Indigenous governments in Canada participate in the resource extraction sector and produce overlapping or multilevel governance structures. This thesis demonstrates that Indigenous international engagement entrenches the authority and political legitimacy manifest in Indigenous governments’ insistence on equitable and horizontal negotiations in Canada’s lucrative resource extraction sector. A cumulative process occurs in which domestic and international expressions of political autonomy reinforce each other, produce further opportunities to express authority in both environments, and trouble the state’s capacity to fully realize its international policy preferences.