Noncontiguous ridings could enhance Aboriginals’ voice in our political institutions
by Mike Medeiros and Benjamin Forest
The Idle No More movement began drawing headlines in late 2012 as a protest against the Harper government’s omnibus budget bill C-45, which contained provisions that it saw as eroding indigenous rights. However, it quickly broadened to express a wider political discontent among Aboriginal Canadians. Actions included political protests in front of Parliament as well as more unconventional direct acts such as blocking roads and railways. Beyond expressing specific grievances, these actions manifested a sense of marginalization, a lack of political voice in mainstream political institutions.
One way of addressing this marginalization would be to increase Aboriginals’ representation in Parliament by creating more Aboriginal-majority ridings. Each member of Parliament is elected from a geographically defined constituency, and accountable to its residents. But the system can create significant barriers for representation of national or ethnic minorities. A minority group can expect to elect a candidate of choice only if it forms the largest group in a riding; otherwise the majority group will regularly prevail, which under certain circumstances could result in total exclusion of minorities.