Structural Racism and Sexism in Settler Societies: Families at the Confluence of Colonialism and Neoliberalism

Myra J. Tait, Lorna Stefanick

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review


This study problematizes the intersections of settler colonialism and neoliberalism with heteropatriarchy/heteropaternalism when considering the vast overrepresentation of Indigenous children in the Canadian child welfare system and Indigenous women in prisons. Using the lens of historical institutionalism, we demonstrate how heteropatriarchy and heteropaternalism provide the normative social order for settler colonial governance, including its most recent iteration, neoliberal governance. We argue that the neoliberal rhetoric of individual rights and responsibilities to assess fitness of families (and more specifically mothers) against a western European neoliberal ideal underpins Canada’s social policy reproducing the structural racism and sexism imposed by colonization. In Canada, there is growing awareness of system dysfunction; it is Indigenous women who are providing the leadership to resist this oppressive model. Resisting neoliberal family policies pushes back against oppressive colonial structures that exacerbate growing systemic inequities thereby negatively impact all families.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-82
Number of pages26
JournalFeminist Formations
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar. 2024


  • Colonial governance
  • Foster care
  • Heteropaternalism
  • Heteropatriarchy
  • Indigenous agency
  • Neoliberal rhetoric
  • Settler colonialism
  • Social welfare policy
  • Structural racism


Dive into the research topics of 'Structural Racism and Sexism in Settler Societies: Families at the Confluence of Colonialism and Neoliberalism'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this