The Transitional Governance Program

Is Your Nation Ready?

Participating First Nations create  governing SYSTEMS that ARE authorized bY CITIZENS to exercise their inherent rights

  • Citizens learn about their inherent rights, decide on the creation of their governance and provide direction to leadership.
  •  Citizens participate in the design of a governing body that exercises jurisdiction over the nation’s territories and create laws for the benefit of the community.
  • This new governing body is authorized by the nation’s constitution to make laws, provide services and represent the First Nation in negotiations with outside parties. 
  • Participating First Nations have the option of becoming part of Rebuilding First Nations Governance, a national research project with access to skilled researchers and analysts to assist in their transition efforts.

Indian Act vs. Self-Determination

The inherent right to self-government is a constitutionally protected right unique to First Nation people. Creating self-governance is the collective responsibility belonging to citizens of a First Nation. No other body, organization or individual can create it without their participation, authorization and direction. 


A Quick Tour of the Program

Engage Citizens. The people are the rights holders, so we start by engaging them in a dialogue about their inherent rights and self-governance. We ask them to develop a shared vision of a future beyond the Indian Act and to identify their priorities.

Develop a Work Plan. We support the First Nation in the development of a work plan for that reflects the citizen’s vision and priorities for transitioning to self-governance. The First Nation is asked to create a transition team that is fully supported by the community and leadership and is mandated to implement the plan.

Review Governance. How is your First Nation organized?  We identify policies that are connected to the Indian Act, those that are outside the Indian Act and new policies to aid in the transition to self-government. We look at how the band office and leadership works with policy and suggest how to take control of the Indian Act and start exercising governance outside of it.

Dialogue with Citizens. We work with the First Nation to identify processes for continued communication, education and community participation. Leadership must seek understanding, consent, and strategic direction from its citizens, the rights holders.

Design a New Governing Body How will your new governance be organized?  We ask citizens to assist in designing a governing body based on principles of effective governance. The First Nation develops a constitution that that defines the nation, sets out its rules, laws and the rights of its citizens. It describes the composition of the governing body and its procedures for making laws.

Realize self-government. We support the First Nation as they approve their constitution and provide their new governing body with the authority to represent citizens and develop laws on the people’s behalf.



Rebuilding First Nations Governance (RFNG) is a six-year research project to identify the most effective ways for First Nations to transition from Indian Act administrations to self-determining governments. Project researchers work with First Nations who participate in the Centre’s Transitional Governance Program. Community-led research emerges from the priorities identified by the rights holders – the people – with the aim of developing a roadmap and tools to help First Nations reclaim Indigenous forms of decision-making and revitalize Indigenous governance practices.