TAKING THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED: Indigenous Self-Determination and Participation in Canadian Institutions

Marc Woons


Despite ever-increasing pressure for Indigenous self-determination, Canadian society continues to resist its implications.  Describing the conflict as a clash of two fundamentally incompatible paradigms, I create a framework that sheds light on the inner workings of paradigmatic political change.  With the goal of self-determination clearly at the centre, this article studies whether such a direct constitutional challenge can be supplemented by indirect approaches.  Two types of indirect approaches are considered: self-government approaches that (temporarily) accept elements of the existing constitutional paradigm and institutional approaches that see Indigenous peoples (temporarily) working within existing rules and institutions.  Rejecting the former outright in the case of Indigenous peoples in Canada, I apply analogous principles from chemistry to help assess the qualities institutional approaches must have to be considered effective political catalysts.  In particular, any successful political catalyst must not compromise self-determination’s goals and must hasten the process through a series of more attainable intermediate changes.  Institutional approaches must also meet a third criterion, which speaks to establishing Indigenous security and trust in the ability of institutional approaches to bring about self-determination.  With these criteria in hand, I suggest that introducing guaranteed Indigenous representation and Indigenizing legislatures can work together as political catalysts that hasten self-determination in ways that Indigenous peoples feel secure pursuing.


Indigenous peoples; self-determination; legislatures; political change; catalysis

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Accommodating Aboriginal Self-Determination in Canadian Institutions: The Case for Self-government, Guaranteed Representation, and Indigenisation
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