Papillon’s Mosaic of Aboriginal Governance
In his review of the evolution of Aboriginal self-government in Canada, Martin Papillon (reference below) concludes that there exists “a mosaic of multilevel governance relations between Aboriginal nations and their federal and provincial counterparts, each with its own institutional framework and evolving dynamics” and he believes this points to “an alternative way for Aboriginal peoples to reshape their relationship with Canadian federalism.”
Papillon concludes his review with (p. 297):
“The relationship between Aboriginal peoples and Canadian federalism remains uncertain and tentative. The initial exclusion of Aboriginal peoples from the federal compact still looms large today, affecting not only the legitimacy but also the performance and effectiveness of the institutions and processes of Canadian federalism as they try to address the difficult colonial legacy. Although Canadians are often perceived to be more supportive of Aboriginal rights than their Australian or American counterparts, this support has not led to a radical reconfiguration of Canadian federalism along the lines proposed by the RCAP and proponents of treaty federalism. Multiple factors work against such a significant reform of Canadian federalism, most significantly the institutional resilience of existing practices and conceptions of state sovereignty and governmental authority. The profound diversity, demographic situation, and socio-economic conditions of Aboriginal peoples also compound these difficulties. So does the fiscal dependency of Aboriginal governments on their federal and provincial counterparts.
“That being said, significant shifts have taken place in the constitutional framework and institutions of Canadian federalism. As we have seen, these shifts remain very much a work in progress. The extent and meaning of Aboriginal rights are still being defined though the courts as well as through public and academic debates. Despite recent developments in treaty negotiations, federal and provincial authorities still impose significant limits on both the process and the substance of agreements. The status of the self-governing structures slowly emerging from such processes varies considerably from one agreement to the other, and their viability largely depends on the willingness of both federal and provincial authorities to put resources and goodwill into implementing each agreement. In this respect, Canadian federalism has performed rather poorly, as the specific responsibilities and obligations of the federal and provincial governments often remain unclear. The participation of Aboriginal organizations in mechanisms of executive federalism raises a new set of issues in terms of legitimacy and accountability, as their status in such processes remains largely ad hoc and uncertain. The rejection of the Kelowna Accord also raises concerns regarding the effectiveness of intergovernmental mechanisms in addressing pressing social and economic issues in Aboriginal communities that cut across the boundaries of federal and provincial jurisdictions.
“As I have suggested, it is perhaps in the emerging dynamics of multilevel governance in the negotiation of policy implementation that Aboriginal, federal, and provincial relations have changed most significantly. This change may not affect the constitutional status of Aboriginal peoples, but Aboriginal governments now play a growing role in the development and implementation of policies, and as a result consolidate their capacity and legitimacy both within the communities and in their relations with federal and provincial authorities. Aboriginal governance is now increasingly being played out in multiple venues. If the federal government has kept the upper hand with its constitutional authority and fiscal capacity, provinces now play an increasing role as a result of their involvement in treaty negotiations and in the process of administrative devolution to Aboriginal governments and organizations. Aboriginal governments have been increasingly proactive in developing their intergovernmental capacity, and engage with their federal and provincial counterparts in policy negotiations. In other words, Aboriginal governance is less and less a unidirectional, top-down affair and is increasingly becoming a multilevel, trilateral reality.
“This emerging trilateral, multilevel governance regime is far from uniform, as the context, status, needs, and expectations, as well as the political clout, of Aboriginal nations vary considerably. Different self-government agreements, land bases, and provincial positions in relation to Aboriginal peoples also affect the nature and dynamics of multilevel governance. It is perhaps more accurate to talk of a mosaic of multilevel governance relations between Aboriginal nations and their federal and provincial counterparts, each with its own institutional framework and evolving dynamics. While it does not create a formal third order of governments or a parallel treaty-based federal structure, this emerging multilevel mosaic offers what can, in effect, be defined as an alternative way for Aboriginal peoples to reshape their relationship with Canadian federalism. In this perspective, change is not coming from above, through formal constitutional processes, but rather from below, through the consolidation of Aboriginal governments’ capacity and legitimacy in exercises of governance. Only time will tell whether this changing dynamic can eventually lead to a more efficient and legitimate relationship between the Canadian federation and Aboriginal peoples.”
Martin Papillon (2012), Canadian Federalism and the Emerging Mosaic of Aboriginal Multi-Level Governance, in Canadian Federalism: Performance, Effectiveness and Legitimacy, 3rd ed., eds. Herman Bakvis and Grace Skogstad, pp. 284-301. Toronto: Oxford University Press.
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Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified 1 October 2016.
Image: Martin Papillon (2012), Canadian Federalism and the Emerging Mosaic of Aboriginal Multi-Level Governance, in Canadian Federalism: Performance, Effectiveness and Legitimacy, 3rd ed., eds. Herman Bakvis and Grace Skogstad, pp. 284-301. Toronto: Oxford University Press.