A collaborative think-tank held at Carleton University, part of a long-term project, recently discussed approaches to mastering and moving out from under the Indian Act toward a practical realization of the inherent right to self-governance.
“The think-tank exceeded our expectations,” said Frances Abele, professor in School of Public Policy and Administration (SPPA). “Leaders and activists from nine First Nations spoke frankly with each other and the academics who joined us. The energy in the room was exceptional and inspiring, and now we are planning a research and development program.”
The Transitional Governance Project acknowledges two factors –that the legal basis for effective self-government has been achieved and progress toward self-government is impeded by institutions and practice shaped by decades of Indian Act administration. The approach is grounded in long-term development work by the Centre for First Nations Governance (CFNG) with First Nations across Canada. Working collaboratively with participating First Nations, the goal is to develop a versatile transitional governance model that can show what is possible and demonstrate the steps to getting there.
Central to transitional governance is the role of citizens. The citizens of each First Nation decide how their community will to transition from Indian Act to self- government and how they will be governed. “It is the responsibility of First Nations people to exercise our inherent right, work with our fellow citizens and begin restoring our nations,” said Satsan (Herb George), senior associate, CFNG. “No one else is going to do it for us.”
The conference, Imagining the Next Canada, the Transitional Governance Project, was proposed by Abele, Satsan and Catherine MacQuarrie, IPAC’s senior executive in residence, Indigenous Government Programs. Project participants included leaders from the Council of the Haida Nation (BC), L’ilwat Nation (BC) and Mi’gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat (QC).Carleton’s SPPA graduate programs in Indigenous Policy and Administration, the CFNG and the Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC), hosted the gathering.
“IPAC is very pleased to be a partner in this historic and important project,” said MacQuarrie. “Public servants can learn a lot from their colleagues in First Nation administrations and can play a critical role in supporting the evolution of self-government in Canada.”
The project seeks to fill a critical gap in research and expertise. The think-tank enabled First Nation and academic participants to identify collaborators and begin to build partnerships for future research. First Nation participants have expressed a need to build an enduring research and practice partnership with scholars, students and public service partners.
The findings of the think-tank will be used in a variety of ways, including developing research partnerships and an applied research agenda that will support First Nations to share experiences and knowledge on governance topics important to them.
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