Rethinking 'Duty': The City of Toronto, a Stretch of the Humber River, and Indigenous-Municipal Relationships

Doug Anderson, Alexandra Flynn

Research output: Working paper


The nation-to-nation relationship between Indigenous peoples and cities remains largely unexplored in the Canadian context. This oversight is especially problematic in light of the significant percentage of Indigenous people who live in urban areas, and the many concerns that Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples share. These shared concerns include the environment, land use, housing, social services, and much more, and modern municipalities do make attempts to address Indigenous-specific needs in these areas; but Indigenous-municipal relationships have implications that far exceed the technocratic and siloed ways in which Canadian systems generally approach these broad areas of concern - implications not only with regard for Indigenous people, but for all people. In many ways Indigenous people exist in the margins of cities (or Canada, or any modern nation, although this is changing ), and this marginalization has much to do with the ways in which Indigenous knowledge and perspectives are generally marginalized. However, Indigenous concerns include deeply principled relationships with all life and everything conceivable, since all layers of reality are inseparable, from Indigenous cultural perspectives. These principled relationships are reflected through Indigenous laws, which in turn have profound implications for how all law, and all relationships, may unfold in large urban centres, which are increasingly the predominating sites of human activity everywhere. Neglect of Indigenous-municipal relationships and of the consequences of municipal action on Indigenous peoples is an oversight affecting all our lives and all layers of being around us. Questions of Indigenous-municipal relations and the law are therefore urgent, and this urgency has motivated the authors to contribute to conversations on Indigenous and Canadian law in the municipal context.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2020

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