Securitizing the Sovereignty Stand-off: Military Efficacy and the Mohawk-Oka Crisis

Willem de Lint

Abstract


From time to time grievances bubble over into public order crises. Historically, the most troublesome category of public disorder is one in which challengers are engaged in a sovereignty stand-off, the grievance being a dispute over the authority of the state or its dominion. In bubbling over to become a matter demanding of the attention of first municipal, and then provincial and federal political and security authorities, sovereignty stand-offs challenge the resolve and patience of all parties. State authorities are sometimes slow to recognise that a sovereignty stand-off requires measures of conciliation not unlike diplomacy in international relations. In this article, I consider the Mohawk-Oka crisis as a sovereignty stand-off that demonstrates the limits of support for the extraordinary retreat of the civil authority. It is an object-lesson not, as some may believe, in the proven efficacy of securitization through operational military deployment. Rather, it supports the view that, confronted with this category of crisis and its strong cultural legacy and limiter, public order militarisation is here a counter-productive overstep, neither necessary nor useful to a durable government or military position or optics. Militarism, even when well-aimed by the political authority, comes up against a cultural legitimacy limit. The advance of militarism in liberal democracies may be dependent, in the first instance, upon an irruptive event and an interested political ideology and may even benefit from a suitable ideological alignment or hegemonologue and strong public relations strategy. However, the Oka sovereignty stand off demonstrates that without a compelling counter to the dirty birth progeny, narrative certainty in militarization or securitization will be short-lived and the limit of securitisation quickly exceeded.


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JMSS is a publication of the Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary.

JMSS gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Social Science and Humanities Research Council.