Surveyors and the conquest of the North



The issue of territory and Canada's First Nations is a frequent subject of concern and discussion. Jean Manore, research professor at Bishop's University, examined the role of the dozens of surveyors commissioned by the provincial and federal governments to explore northern Ontario between 1870 and 1930. True pioneers, they mapped the territory and listed its resources, providing the government with essential data that would be used to take charge of the region.

The surveyors' maps and notes were used by the government in the development of laws and policies.

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Canadian and Ontario governments began to assert their authority over this vast northern territory, already occupied by Aboriginal people, through the application of what historian Ian McKay has labelled the "liberal order framework". Based on individualism, private property and the rule of law, this political and economic ideology was foreign to the Aboriginal people but allowed the State to impose its hegemony over the northern territories without the need to occupy them physically.

The surveyors' maps and notes were used by the government in the development of laws and policies to assert jurisdiction over the land of the Aboriginal people of northern Ontario. The surveyors' interest in the north stemmed from its potential for natural resource exploitation and profit, a vision vastly different to that of the Aboriginal people.

In addition to shedding light on this period of northern Canada's history, Jean Manore's work provides insight into the formation of the State of Canada and relations between Aboriginal people and the colonists, providing us with a better understanding of certain conflicts that persist to this day.