Building Relationships or Building Roadblocks with Public Consultation? An Evaluation of the Urban Aboriginal Strategy's Community Advisory Committees in Winnipeg and Toronto
Nguyen, Mai Thu Thi
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My comparative case study seeks to answer the following question: Have Community Advisory Committees (CACs) shifted decision-making power and permitted the building of trust through the Urban Aboriginal Strategy (UAS)? It argues that CACs 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. When power relations are equalized, Aboriginal-state political relations can be renewed based on trust and mutual respect—aspects which have been absent within the Aboriginal-state apparatus and which have resulted in the political exclusion of Aboriginal peoples in Canada. Re-ordering the power dynamic within policy-making and restoring Aboriginal trust in the state will lead to the effective participation of Aboriginal participants during public consultation. Specifically, this comparative case study analyzes the federal government’s current Urban Aboriginal Strategy and its consultation process in both Winnipeg and Toronto. This Strategy is to provide long-term investments to support Aboriginal communities in urban settings by focusing on three priority areas: improving life skills; promoting job training, skills and entrepreneurship; and supporting Aboriginal women, children and families. The analysis performed in this research evaluates the consultation process through the development of an evaluation framework based on the dominant literature on CACs. The framework identifies critical components and criteria that must be present for CACs to be effective. The criteria was then mapped on to interview questions. Through a series of interviews with those involved in the UAS decision-making process, this research determines the extent to which the UAS decision-making process meets the standards for effective participation. Based on interviews with the Steering Committee, this dissertation finds that the UAS consultation process in Winnipeg is a successful mechanism for enabling the effective participation of Aboriginal participants in the democratic process—a process that is resulting in the construction of a renewed Aboriginal-state political relationship. However, in the Toronto case, the UAS has not experienced similar success because it does not meet the criteria set out in the evaluation framework.