Building Relationships or Building Roadblocks? A Look at the Winnipeg Urban Aboriginal Strategy
AbstractDo Aboriginal–state public consultations allow for the effective participation of Aboriginal participants in the democratic process, given the group’s political marginalization? This paper argues that public consultations are an effective tool for ensuring the successful participation of Aboriginal groups when the consultation process includes mechanisms for redistributing power from governments to stakeholders. Specifically, this paper looks at the federal government’s current Urban Aboriginal Strategy (UAS) in Winnipeg. Although the direction and tone of the UAS is set by the federal government, the members of the Steering Committee, composed of twelve Aboriginal members and three government officials, are the ones who decide which policies and programs will receive funding. Decision-making is done through ongoing consultation with the Steering Committee and the Aboriginal community at large. Employing ideas in Arnstein (1969) and public consultations literature to create an evaluation framework, this paper identifies critical components that must be present for consultations to be fruitful. And, based on interviews with the Steering Committee, it finds that the UAS in Winnipeg is a successful mechanism for enabling the effective participation of Aboriginal participants in the democratic process—a process which is resulting in the construction of a renewed Aboriginal–state political relationship.
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