Shiri Pasternak

Jurisdiction and Settler Colonialism: Where Do Laws Meet?

Pasternak, S. “Jurisdiction and Settler Colonialism: Where Laws Meet,” Special Issue: Law & Decolonization, Canadian Journal of Law and Society. Volume 29 / Special Issue 02 / August 2014, pp 145-161

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To engage in the question of what it means to decolonize law, we must ask by what authority a law has the authority to be invoked and to govern. In this paper, I describe the conditions necessary for the exercise of Canadian law as being the work of jurisdiction, and I call into question Canada’s legality and legitimacy in making jurisdictional claims. Decolonizing law means deconstructing the state’s grounds to inaugurate law on lands acquired through colonial settlement. By critically examining law’s geography and scope I call into question the modern definition of territory itself. Further, I draw attention to jurisdiction as a conceptual framework for understanding the specificities of settler colonialism; illustrate jurisdiction as a historical concept, distinct from territory and sovereignty; and show some of the ways in which jurisdiction is enacted to govern across multiple scales and issues.