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Investigating unequal geographies of land, resources, and infrastructure

Investigating unequal geographies of land, resources, and infrastructure

Wood, Patricia | Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change
Patricia Wood

With diverse geographic interests, Professor Patricia Wood's research focuses on citizenship, identity, mobility, and attachment to place. She does both contemporary and historical work in Canada, the United States and Ireland, analyzing a wide range of sources and activities concerning political expression and identity, as well as conducting community-based research with an emphasis on participatory, collaborative research practices. She is particularly interested in the experiences of marginalized groups whose way of life brings them into conflict either with their neighbouring communities or the state.  

With David Rossiter of Western Washington University, she is completing a book for UBC Press, Unstable Properties: Aboriginal title and the invention of British Columbia, which is a critical historical geographic analysis of the politics of Aboriginal title in British Columbia.

Having studied both Northern Gateway pipeline proponents’ discursive and legal strategies for fixing territory for the investment of capital and First Nations’ politics of refusal and assertions of sovereignty in the face of these strategies, Wood and Rossiter argue that the BC polity rests on an inherently unstable material-ideological foundation of land and title arrangements. For Reconciliation to be in any way meaningful, settler governments (including the federal government) must fully confront the historical geography of the province, and Reconciliation must manifest itself both in relationships and in land. This will entail new and creative thinking around federalism and territorial sovereignty.

'The Crown' is best understood in their specific historical-geographic context, particularly settler-colonialism.

Some of Wood’s research on political geographies of Aboriginal title was presented in a recent LA&PS Socio-Legal Studies Speaker Series 2021 on The Geography of ‘The Crown’: Law and the Political Geography of Settler-Colonialism in Canada, based on a recent publication in The Supreme Court Law Review. Deploying a geographic critique of the legal history of Aboriginal title, Wood argues that in the context of settler colonialism in Canada, “the Crown” is a land claim and should be treated as such. 

The seminar covered the challenge of pre-existing Aboriginal political geographies against imperial actors imposed by the Crown to secure colonial land claims. In efforts to address these tensions, the Court relies on concepts of the Crown, its honour and its duties to accommodate and justify Crown sovereignty, but avoids fundamental questions of the history of that political geography. Despite some legal decisions that have affirmed the claims of Indigenous peoples, recent decisions such as Mikisew Cree (2018) demonstrate the limitations of the Court and the need for political solutions.

Wood is also conducting comparative research on municipal and urban regional governance. The project, Toronto the Better: Renewing Local Democracy, combines civil-society stakeholder consultation on the values and needs of communities across the city with research on municipal governance and city charters in cities around the world. Together, the two parts of the project aspire to offer advice to policymakers on improving local democracy in Toronto and its region.  

Improving bus transit helps the economy & helps the people most in need

A contributing author to SpacingToronto and a collaborator in a Ryerson-led project on StudentMoveTO, a SSHRC partnership project with academic and community collaborators that has generated insights, debates, and actions to improve transportation experiences of post-secondary students in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA), Wood has published several articles on the topic on the impacts of COVID-19 on public transiteconomic recovery, urban mobility and equality, as well as suburban land use and climate change.  

As part of the StudentMoveTO project, Wood is studying travel habits of students in the GTHA to dissect and understand the challenges that post-secondary students face getting around the region. The StudentMoveTO project, in the long run, intends to address how universities and urban planners can collaborate to incorporate better travel policies.  

Some of Wood’s recent publications include “The Geography of the Crown: Reflections on Mikisew Cree and Williams Lake” (2020); “How Should We Study Racial Segregation”? (2019); Mobility and Citizenship in the Era of Brexit and Trump (2018); Citizenship, Activism and the City: The Invisible and the Impossible (2017); and “Travellers, Land Management and the Political Ecology of Social Marginalisation in Ireland” (2017).