Building a Constitution that Reflects the Aspirations of the People
What processes can be used to develop First Nations constitutions? How do Nations determine the timeframes and citizen engagement processes to ratify a constitution? These are some of the questions that the Conseil de la nation Atikamekw Sipi (CNAS) began to explore in spring of 2011.
The National Centre for First Nations Governance NCFNG was invited by the Conseil de la nation Atikamekw Sipi to present a two-day introduction to constitutions workshop. The workshop was presented through the use of video clips, power point presentations, interactive group exercises and discussions. “A strong commitment to drafting the constitution, engaging the citizens of the First Nation in the drafting process and establishing a fair ratification process are required to successfully develop and ratify a constitution” shares NCFNG Quebec regional manager, Marcel Tessier.
The Atikamekw nation has been engaged in a tripartite process of territorial negotiations for several years. An important element to this government is to make sure to have its own constitution reflecting the values and aspirations of their members. A significant amount of work on that reflection has already been carried out by the constituents of CNAS.
Tessier adds, “It is understandable that a constitution is in some ways the birth of a Nation. Each constitution is therefore unique. It must be crafted by the various constituents. It must reflect fairly the colors of their youth, their elders, women, class politics, legends and traditions.”
CNAS engaged the outside help of NCFNG as the Centre has developed a constitution workshop tailored to the specific needs of First Nations and has qualified Aboriginal personnel who deliver the workshops right in First Nation communities.
One participant reflected, “I really appreciated the constitution workshop, especially considering it was delivered by First Nation facilitators. I find that we understand each other better.”
NCFNG commends CNAS for commencing on this journey to develop a constitution that will reflect the values and aspirations of their members and looks forward to supporting them throughout this process.