Analysis of Aboriginal Self Government Through Constitutional Design by Christopher Alcantara and Greg Whitfield

Analysis of Aboriginal Self Government Through Constitutional Design by Christopher Alcantara and Greg Whitfield

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In “Aboriginal Self Government through Constitutional Design: A Survey of Fourteen Aboriginal Constitutions in Canada” Christopher Alcantara and Greg Whitfield explore the dynamics of modern Aboriginal constitutions, as they analyze 14 Aboriginal constitutions and their comparative design and political nature to that of non-Aboriginal ones. Longstanding Indigenous traditions, and the unique development of their beliefs and practices are often reflected in these constitutional texts, which aim to develop “contemporary laws based on the values that informed and shaped their traditional approaches to the governance of human relationships and dispute resolution[s]” (123). The studied constitutions provide a textual snapshot of their societies makeup, which outline the issues they often face and are committed to overcoming. Despite differing and often challenging legal, cultural and constitutional traditions division between Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals, their document creators are often confronted with the same types of issues (139). Indigenous constitutions signify a bond between individual groups and serve as legitimate documents that are important to their communities (128). While most of the studied First Nations groups have both signed land-claims and self-government agreements, it is not mandatory and does not alter the deep-rooted sense of identity that these groups continue to maintain.
Alcantara and Whitfield outline the analytical framework of a modern constitution, to establish a point of reference as they assess those of the Indigenous. The inclusion of first-generation rights in Aboriginal constitutions represent the largest portion of individual and communal rights, often including “the right to universal franchise, ...


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...has existed for centuries and did not originate in any particular tradition (135) – it serves as a commonality.
Alcantara and Whitfield discuss the work that must still be done; what conditions surround the creation of Aboriginal constitutions and the documentation of their evolution and impact. Tracking the effectiveness of these documents would illustrate if and how written text is put into practice and how it reflects Aboriginal self-government in Canada (140-141). It is not often that authors will acknowledge what is left to discover, and as a result it often becomes to conclusion of future readers, which can take away from the value of the piece itself. The initiative taken by the authors to illustrate not only the merit of their work, but the questions that still need attention display their commitment to Indigenous development and understanding in Canada.

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