Canadians open to quotas to boost indigenous representation in government

Interesting and significant. Of note that opposition is highest in the two provinces with the largest percentage of Indigenous people, Saskatchewan and Manitoba:

The majority of Canadians are open to designating seats for the country’s indigenous people to boost their representation in Parliament and on the Supreme Court.

A recent survey by Environics Institute and the Institute on Governance found that two-thirds of Canadians are open to improving the representation of indigenous people in federal institutions.

They are divided, however, when it comes to how that representation would be achieved.

When asked about hypothetically designating a specific number of seats for indigenous representatives in the House of Commons, Senate or Supreme Court, one-third backed the idea; one-third opposed, and one-third said it “depends” on how it was done or were unsure.

Maryantonett Flumian, president of the Institute on Governance (IOG) , said the nearly 30 per cent who said they could support quotas depending on how they are handled suggests an “openness” among Canadians and a significant shift in attitude.

 “We don’t have comparative data but I … think these numbers represent an evolution in public opinion and in the minds of many Canadians. I would bet that we wouldn’t have had those responses five years ago and that attitudes have evolved that far.”

She also said Canadians seem to recognize that we can’t fix the country’s relationship with indigenous peoples “with good intentions (only) — they have to be in the positions driving it.”

Scott Serson, a former deputy minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, said the survey suggested Canadians are more open today than when a group of seven organizations conducted a major survey of non-aboriginal Canadians in 2014.

That survey was conducted by Environics as a baseline to track changing public attitudes towards reconciliation. It found Canadians increasingly recognize the historic and current challenges indigenous people face, with many indicating support for reconciliation and finding solutions.

“We have always said that First Nations must be at every table where decisions are being made that affect us, including the cabinet table, the boardroom table, the Supreme Court of Canada and beyond,” said Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde.

“I am encouraged that many Canadians have confidence in the ability of First Nations leaders, and support the need for us to be fully involved in setting the path forward as partners.”

Emmett Macfarlane, a political scientist at the University of Waterloo, called Canadians’ openness to increased indigenous representation in government a “turning point” in attitudes.

He said the intense media attention around the Truth and Reconciliation Report into the residential school system, coupled with the Idle No More movement and the inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, have all helped increase Canadians’ knowledge and understanding.

“This is an important development that puts them at the top of mind for non-indigenous people. It’s a bit of a surprise because it’s a departure from historical norms where non-indigenous Canadians have not given a lot of thought to indigenous Canadians.

…According to the survey, 46 per cent of Canadians support more indigenous representation while 16 per cent are opposed. Nearly 30 per cent responded with “depends” how it was done and nine per cent had no opinion.

The level of support, however, divided along East-West lines.

Support to expanding representation was strongest in Eastern and Central Canada, especially in Quebec where 56 per cent said they supported the idea. Opposition was most evident Manitoba and Saskatchewan where 26 per cent were opposed.

The survey asked Canadians who opposed expanding indigenous representation to give reasons for their objections. The most common reason, given by 35 per cent of them, was that all Canadians are equal and no group should be given preferential treatment.

About 10 per cent said indigenous peoples are adequately represented; nine per cent said they were over-represented; nine per cent said they were irresponsible and might abuse the system, and that representation should be based on qualifications not background.

About 28 per cent offered no specific reasons for their objections.

Source: Canadians open to quotas to boost indigenous representation in government | Ottawa Citizen

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About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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