Liberal Order and Climate Control: Ontario Parks as Environmental Settler Colonialism
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Ontario parks were born out of an oligarchic political structure in the 19th century that employed an enclosure-reserve practice to take control of wilderness lands for the preservation of lucrative timber resources, and bring those lands into a liberal order that functioned to help facilitate industrialization and build a home market. Economic resource interests were not the only motivations for park creation, as anxieties about climate and Indigenous land-use also motivated enclosure and land management. Bureaucrats had remarkable power to convince governments to create parks and reshape the land to meet British and Western European ideals, borrowing political practices (enclosure) and environmental ideas (e.g. regarding climate) from British colonial and European experiences. A form of climate control was employed to manipulate and re-construct parks and exclude certain people(s). This political-environmental interplay reveals Ontario parks as a form of early ‘Indian policy,’ as park creation relied on ethnocentric ideas about Indigenous land-use and ultimately led to the result that enfranchisement and civilization policies were designed to achieve: Indigenous land dispossession. Settler authorities’ ethnocentric disregard for Indigenous peoples and their relationship to the land created the conditions to construct parks as a settler colonial environmental institution designed to serve a liberal order and environmental ethnocentrism.