Transitional Governance Project Think Tank, 2017

The inaugural Transitional Governance Think Tank was held October 3-5, 2017 at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario. The Think Tank formally engaged long-time project collaborators Chris Robertson and Len Hartley from the Centre for First Nations Governance (CFNG). The event combined presentations by experts and community representatives with open dialogue among more than 50 participants. The Think Tank culminated in an Open Space exercise where participants and presenters reflected on each of the CFNG’s 5 Pillars of the Inherent Right to Self-government (the people, laws and jurisdiction, the land, governance, and resources) to identify key transitional challenges and opportunities.

Financial support for the Transitional Governance Think Tank came from several sources, including a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Connections Grant (awarded Summer 2017), the Institute for Public Administration of Canada (IPAC), and the generous contributions of the three founding participants of the Transitional Governance Project: the Lil’wat Nation, the Council of the Haida Nation, and Mi’gmawei Mawiomi.

Watch the recordings from the TGP Think Tank here!

Opening Prayer by Elder Albert Dumont

Algonquin Elder Albert Dumont recounts his connection to the Indian Act and the ways its oppressive nature affected his life from childhood to adulthood. Dumont describes the racist confrontations he and his family have experienced. He expresses a hopeful vision for the generations of First Nations peoples to follow. Watch Dumont discuss the importance of courage and community role models in the journey to recovery from the Indian Act.

Introduction by Satsan

Lifelong speaker, Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief, and Centre for First Nations Governance founder Satsan (Herb George) discusses the importance of First Nations self-governance, beginning with an important lesson he learned from his uncle, a Wet’suwet’en elder, decades ago. Satsan explains section 35 of Canada’s constitution and how it recognizes First Nations’ status as unique nations of their own. He makes an impassioned call for First Nations to fight colonialism in the best way they can—by creating their own laws and mastering the intricacies of the Indian Act, so it can eventually be destroyed. Watch to hear Satsan’s touching insights on inherent right governance’s role in building a bright future for First Nations.

The Inherent Right to Self-Government: Pre-Contact, Contact, Colonization, Confederation and the Present – Presentation by Chris Robertson and Jodi Bruhn

Chris Robertson from the Centre for First Nations Governance presents a historical timeline from pre-contact to the present day. He explains the history of nation-to-nation relations and important legislation that impacted First Nations sovereignty over time. Jodi Bruhn from Stratejuste Consulting draws attention to four legal cases resulting in pivotal changes in First Nations peoples’ fight for self-governance. Watch both speakers summarize the effects settler policies have had on First Nation jurisdiction.

From Theory to Practice – Presentation by Catherine MacQuarrie and Dr. Frances Abele

Governance expert Catherine MacQuarrie presents a draft roadmap to First Nations governance, showing the starting and end points between Indian Act administration and inherent right governance. She describes First Nations communities’ approaches towards citizenship, law-making, intergovernmental relationships and other aspects of governance. Her presentation is accompanied by a helpful document explaining the difference between inherent right governance and Indian Act administration. Dr. Frances Abele, emerita distinguished research professor at Carleton University, describes Rebuilding First Nations Governance’s research approaches and invites viewers to join the project. Watch to learn how these two speakers suggest First Nations communities tackle the most significant roadblocks to achieving self-determination.

From an Empty Box to a Full Box – Presentation by Kent McNeil

Kent McNeil, emeritus distinguished research professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, briefly describes the history of Indigenous peoples’ constitutional rights in Canada and explains the difference between inherent and contingent rights. He highlights the importance of Section 35 in the Canadian Constitution for First Nations while also stressing the ways successive Canadian governments have and continue to fail these communities in terms of self-government. Watch to learn about his suggestions on how First Nations can take a transitional approach to self-government based on their inherent right and expressing their own laws.

Lessons From Around the World – Presentation by Stephen Cornell

Stephen Cornell, professor of sociology and faculty chair of the Native Nations Institute at the University of Arizona, draws from his experience as an American researcher who has studied communities across the globe as they work to establish ways to self-govern after colonization. He offers frameworks and guidelines to consider when nation rebuilding. Watch to learn his suggestions for how First Nation communities in Canada can embrace the governance challenge.

Fiscal Relationships – Presentation by Emmanuel Brunet-Jailly

Dr. Emmanuel Brunet-Jailly from the University of Victoria summarizes key findings from his 2008 paper examining the fiscal relationship between the Canadian government and First Nations. His research found policies that were newly implemented at the time had success in increasing First Nations’ knowledge of property tax administration and were helpful in maximizing their revenue sources. Watch Brunet-Jailly explain how property tax can be an effective tool of self-government.

Lessons from the Land – Akwesasne

Chief Connie Lazore from the Akwesasne Mohawk Council discusses how her community’s districts govern themselves, what policies they have in place, and how they are working to expand their jurisdiction and authority. Lazore explains how Akwesasne is looking to redefine its relationship with Canada. She describes the community’s ongoing discussions with Canadian government officials on matters such as land claim settlements, land expropriation and financial management policy. Watch to learn how Lazore approaches these difficult negotiations, taking into account the impact of these decisions on future generations and the lessons learned by generations past.

Community Presentation – Haida Nation

Peter Lantin, former president of Haida Nation, talks about some of the most significant battles faced by his nation over the past 40 years as it transitioned away from the Indian Act. Starting with an explanation of the history of industrial logging in their territory, Lantin recounts how the 1985 Lyell Island confrontations sparked a desire for change within the Haida Nation. He continues by outlining how the Haida people have implemented their own constitution and agreements. Watch Lantin reflect on the lessons his community learned in its mission to establish effective governance.

Community Presentation – Tlicho Government

John B. Zoe, senior advisor the Tlicho Government, shares the stories of his land he has collected over time. Drawing on his experience as a chief negotiator for the former Treaty 11 Council of the Northwest Territories, Zoe describes the significance of coexisting with the land for the Tlicho people and outlines issues various treaties have created for First Nations since Europeans first arrived in the Americas. Watch Zoe break down the complexity of land agreements and treaties. Learn about his suggestions for creating an implementation plan for self-government.


Conclusion by Satsan