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Individualism and Collectivism in Northern Politics

Avigail Eisenberg
The University of British Columbia

--- The concepts collectivism and communitarianism are widely used in debates about
what type of public philosophy ought to inform the politics of Canada and the United
States. The question as to whether individualism or collectivism offers a better
vision of social rela-tions has gone beyond the confines of academia and now fuels
ortho-dox politics in the United States by shaping the strategies of powerful interest
groups, including business,1 the office of the American President,2 and the ranks of
the Democratic and Republi-can parties.3 'The Communitarian Network', an intellectual
and political group based in the United States, are working to remake America into
a state that prizes communal values over individual-ism. In addition to publishing a
quarterly journal, The Respon-sive Community, the Network organizes conferences,
l.Steve Toulin, "Communitarianism Key to Strong Political Society," The
Financial Post 87:16 (April 17/19, 1993). Communitarianism has also
been used to justify cuts to social welfare spending see
"Responsibilities: Communitar-ianism might save us some mental anguish
in the coming year," Montreal Gazette, March 12, 1993, B3.
2. President Clinton has been giving out copies of a book, written by the leader of
Communitarian Network, Amitai Etzioni, to his special visitors at the White House. See
Murray Campbell, "Wrestling Morality from the Clutches of the Right," Globe and Mail,
January 17th, 1994 A1.
3. Campbell, A1, also see "Freedom and Community," The Economist (Dec 24th-Jan 6th,
1995) 33.

seminars for business leaders, on how to change their individual-ist-
consumerist philosophy into one which taps into the values of a collectivist
To be drawn to collectivism or suspicious of individualism is no longer a way
of rebelling against the values in the mainstream of the United States. To the
contrary, the Communitarian Network has caP-
tured the imagination of many moral conservatives who yearn nostalgically for
'how things used to be'. Moreover, values which are openly embraced by the
President of the United States and business leaders can hardly be far from the
mainstream. Nonethe-less, the concepts of community and collectivism continue to
be employed in poXitical analysis--to signal a different and better vision of
social relations - better, that is, than that which individualism is purported
to offer.
This is particularly true in Canadian political analysis. Collec-tivism and
communitarianism are concepts well known to those who study Canadian political
jurisprudence, constitutionalism, Quebec, and Aboriginal politics. Collectivism is
often tied to the progressive cultural struggles of Quebecois and Aboriginal peoples.
It is identified as one of the key values that distinguishes these peo-ples from the
majority English-Canadian or non-aboriginal populations who are putatively more
committed to individualism. In scholarship about Canada's North, this usage is
particularly prevalent. Individual-ism is used to explain the cultural biases that
disadvantage aborigi-nal peoples in the North's governing institutions, rules regarding
political representation, and economic agendas. Collective rights are purportedly
needed in order to protect Northern communities whose

survival is threatened by individualism.
Evidently, the concepts of collectivism and community are being shaped to suit
very different agendas given the diversity of ends to which they are used in Canada
and the United States. This diversity could signify a disagreement amongst analysts as
to what individualist
or collectivist politics entails. But another explanationWis that these '
-cvnccsts aregbeing used ideologically rather than analytically. Instead
of accurately characterizing different visions of social relations, individualism and
collectivism may have become powerful symbols which are manipulated in ideological
battles of diverse and even contradic-tory sorts.
The possibility that the concept of collectivism and its purport-
ed antonym, individualism, are used ideologically rather than analyti-
cally well fits the politics of the North. Rather than accurately 2
; characteriz#hglthe cultural differences that divide communities of the North, and,
specifically, the differences betweentmethods of government and decision-making
processes of Northern peoples, analy-ses which purport to detect the presence of
collectivism or individu-alism are at best caricaturing these differences, and at
worst, using these concepts ideologically in ways that obscure why institutions, sEch
parliamentary government, are biased against Aboriginal peoples. Two concerns are
explored here. First, because of its ideological power, collectivism is overused and
mistakenly applied in analyses of Northern politics. Second, this overuse and
misapplication has the effect of mystifying problems, such as racism and exploitation
for profit, which are neither mysterious nor solvable by replacing individualist
values with collectivism.

Here I shall examine the two aspects of Canadian politics in the North which are
repeatedly identified as ones in need of reform either because they embody
biases or because they are insufficiently sensitive to collectivism. The first aspect is

tary government.lsecondK controversies regarding representation,
including disputes about electoral boundaries, voting rights or resi-
S cHQs dency requirementsr re often caste ln terms of a
contest between
individualist and collectivist values. Most of the literature examined here focuses on
the Northwest Territories although some of the observations are also relevant to
politics in the Yukon.
Parliamentary government and decision-making
The political and social situation of the North is unique in ways that have
influenced the political institutions there. The political and legal culture of the NWT
is similar along important dimensions to that of a colony.4 It lacks provincial status
and thus the law-making power and legitimacy5 of a provincial government. Not until
were all the members of the Territorial Council, since renamed, the Legislative
Assembly, elected rather than appointed by the Federal government. The Inuit, who
always comprised a clear majority in the NWT, did not attain the'right to vote in
federal elections (there were no
4.An excellent discussion of the ways in which colonial domination fits the Northern
experience is offered by Rosemarie Kuptana, "Globaliza-tion and Fragmentation: The
Aboriginal Response," speech delivered to the International Forum, University of
British Columbia, Vancouver, January 26th, 1995 (mss. on file with author). Also see
Gurston Dacks, _ Choice of Futures, (Toronto: Methuen, 1981) 94.
5. See Mark Dickerson, Whose North? (Vancouver: UBC Press, 1992) for an analysis
which focuses on the lack of legitimacy in the Northern decision-making and the
consequences which follow from this.

provincial elections in which to vote at the time) until the 1950s- The Dene, who also
comprise a substantial proportion of the population, acquired the right to vote
federally in the 1960s. Although the law-making power of the NWT's legislature has
steadily expanded since 1975, the Territories and the Yukon do not have the same
privileges or powers in the Canadian state as do other provincial governments. -In-the
constitutional negotiations of the 1980s and l990s, Northerners had to rely on the
Federal government to represent their interests. During Meech Lake, the North
as provincial governments, one by one, endorsed an agreement that all but foreclosed
the possibility of the territories ever attaining provincial status.6
This is not to imply that provincial status is what all Northern-
ers want. For example, many aboriginal Northerners fear that the attainment of
provincial status will jeopardize the possibility of settling outstanding land claims
and insist, for this reason, that claims be settled first. Progress towards this end
was made in 1976 with an agreement which covers the high western portion of the
signed between Canada and the Inuvialuit. In addition, in 1993, an agreement was
for the creation of Nunavut, a territory of the eastern Arctic, 86% of whose members
are Inuit. Nunavut will separate from the NWT in 1997. In the meantime, the Dene,
Metis, Inuvialuit, and non-aboriginal peoples of the western Arctic have ongoing
debates about ways in which to restructure their governing institutions.
In light of these circumstances, political change and development is occurring
in the North more radically than it has the chance of occurring anywhere else on the
continent. Northerners are
6.Meech Lake Accord, ...

examining and debating the values of parliamentary government and voting
rights in a way that, if these debates occurred in the South, they would be
treated as idle speculation. Northerners seem to have the opportunity to
remake their political world in a way that Southerners do not.
One way in which this political world will be remade is by de-
veloping a government decision-making process which is indigenous to the peoples of
the North. Presently, the Westminster form of parliamentary government operates in
the NWT with some interest-ing variations which will be discussed below. The
inadequacy of the Territories' government uncontroversially rests on its lack of
law-making power, particularly over land and resources, and consequently its lack
of legitimacy in the eyes of those whom it seeks to represent.7 But beyond this,
the parliamentary form of government has come under attack for being based on
individualism and this is said to contribute to its lack of legitimacy in the
The argument that individualism informs nonaboriginal political and economic
values and is endemic to their institutions is sprinkled throughout analyses of
Northern politics. Individualism is used to explain the basic orientation of western
politics. ~The purpose of the state," as Gurston Dacks describes it, "is to organize a
basically individualistic and self-serving mass of people into a coherent whole.~'8 It
follows from this description that the Canadian state holds
7.Dickerson, 8.
8.Dacks, 1981, 64.

that "it is better if people behave individualistically." Furthermore, the state
"takes as a matter of fact that Canadians are individual-ists."9
That individualism is exhibited in various aspects of Canadian and American
culture is not disputed here. But that the presence of individualism should serve as an
explanation for why parliamentary asstitutions are either biased against aboriginal
values or lack legit-imacy amongst aboriginal peoples in the North is a position that is
far more difficult to defend. Yet, this is the position of Graham White who
investigates the problem of the British parliamentary system in the North. Central to
White's explanation is the conflict between individualism and aboriginal values. "The
majoritarian form of parlia-
mentary decision-making offers no special provision for group inter-ests," he
argues.10 Furthermore, "the parliamentary model, rooted in Western liberal
is premised on the representation of indi-viduals rather than collectivities"(emphasis
added).1l This conflicts with the values of northern aboriginal cultures in which "it
is clear that the interests of the group transcend those of the individual."12
Amongst the evidence offered for this latter claim, White discusses the results of
a survey he conducted amongst 24 MLAs in the NWT in which 3/4 of Native MLAs, as
opposed to 3/8 of nonnatives MLAs, supported the notion of a cultural veto over major
9.Dacks, 1981, 64.
10.Graham White, "Westminster in the ARctic: The Adaptation of British
in the Northwest Territories," Canadian Journal of Political Science, XXIV:3
(September, 1991), 507.
ll.White, 507.
12.White, 507.

White's analysis contains many serious problems, the first two of which address
the question of what sort of conclusions about cultural differences can plausibly be
drawn from a survey of 24 individuals. The values of aboriginal peoples in the North
towards individualism and cultural identity cannot be extracted from the opinions of
aboriginal MLAs, as White's analysis implies. Second, without evidence to the
contrary, one supposes that in other parts of Canada, Quebec for example, or even in
other Western countries, similar, if not more dramatic, results could be obtained.
But even if these conclusions represent aboriginal values accu-rately, they
misrepresent the nature of parliamentary decision-making. The parliamentary model
after all, rooted in the collectivist values of feudalism where the only interests
represented were those of the leaders of different communities whose allegiance the
monarch attempted to secure by seeking their advice. Parlia-mentary government
the decline of feudalism by placing these community leaders - the Lords - into an
upper house of diminishing powers. But the resulting institution was hardly
individualistic in character. The lower house, the House of Commons, came to be
occupied by a group of people with at least one common interest - they were all
property owners - and for this reason were considered to have direct interests in the
key business of government, namely taxation. The unity of this group was not only
built upon their common class position and interest

in property,13 but further, on their religion, gender, and race. All
individuals except those with property were excluded from government. And
whether or not one owned property seemed to depend upon whether one possessed
a strict series of ascriptive characteristics. Law and custom conspired to
ensure that women, Jews, and other religious and racial minorities were not
-owners.14 So, far from being individualistic, parliamentary government evolved
to serve an exclusive community and one de-fined largely on the basis of race,
gender, and class interests.
The claim that parliamentary government serves individualist values cannot be
substantiated by examining the roots of the parlia-mentary tradition. Moreover,
individualism fails to capture three of the key internal means of decision-making
which comprise the Westminster model used in Canada and Britain. First and
foremost, the notion of responsible government requires that the governing caucus
in parliament put forward legislation collectively and accept defeat collectively.
If the government as a group fails to secure approval from a majority of members of
the House on a major piece of legislature, it must resign. Second, cabinet
solidarity is also clearly hostile to an individualist ethos; if
13.See C.B. Macpherson, "Property Rights and Human Rights," in...
14.A very small percentage of landowners in the 17th century were women. However,
their legal position as property owners deteriorated significantly in the 18th and
l9th centuries. See Leonore Davidoff and Catherine Hall, Famils Fortunes: Men and
Women of the Enqlish Middle Class, 1780-1850 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
1987), 275-9. Furthermore, the British Constit~tion held that "membership in the State
Church was a prerequisite for full citizenship." This principle was not rendered
ineffective until the late 18th century by the Toleration Acts. It was finally
repealed in 1828. See Norman McCord, British HistorY, 1815-1916 (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1991) 40.

a member of the cabinet is unable to support a piece of govern-ment
legislation, s/he must leave cabinet. Third, the idea of party
government and more obviously party discipline embrace collectivist
values over individualist ones. Unlike in the United States, where
party imposes few obstacles to members of Congress in deciding how to
vote, in Canada, pressure will be exerted on Penegade elected members
who fail to go along with the decision of the collectivity.
As previously mentioned, the NWT has developed variations to the
Westminster model. Specifically, parties do not compete in NWT elections.
Instead, members are voted in as independents and, once they are in the
legislature, they elect a leader who then chooses a cabinet. Those in cabinet act
as the government and those outside it are the opposition. Even though many
commenta-tors claim that these variations give to the legislature a North-ern and
even an aboriginal flavour,15 they effectively eliminate rather than strengthen
the collectivist means of decision-making, and ironically, reduce, in at least
three ways, the extent to which the NWT legislature is able to deal effectively
with dis-tinct cultural interests of Northern communities. First, without parties,
voters' are not offered at election time coherent plans which address the larger
political and economic challenges con-fronting the North. Because candidates run
as independents, each does not have access to the resources that political
parties offer, including the power that comes with being elected as a team with a
common purpose and an united agenda. Second, without
__ ___________ _____
15. White, 505-6, Dickerson, 96.

parties, party discipline, and responsible government, nothing compels the
opposition or the cabinet to pursue a coherent plan even if, as
independents, they formulate one.l6 Third, interest groups, such as those
representing the different aboriginal communities, have no party structures
within which to exert influence should they choose to do so. In other words,
communities could not succeed in using the Legislature to advance their
interests because of the absence of mechanisms of account-ability such as cabinet
solidarity and responsible government. For this reason, Dacks argues that
experimenting in the NWT with electoral systems, such as proportional
representation, which could guarantee a minimum number of Aboriginal seats, will
not lead, on its own, to a system better able to represent and ad-vance
Aboriginal interests.17 Even though Aboriginal peoples have comprised a majority
in the NWT legislature since 1976, the absence of a party structure and party
discipline has meant that an agenda which addresses aboriginal interests is not
pursued in the Legislature. In other words, the Northern variations have made
parliamentary government less collectivist and ironically less capable of
addressing communal interests.
The beneficial features of these changes ought not to be ne-glected. Adopting
the party labels and possibly the party machines of Southern Canada is hardly the
route to Northern self-determination.
16.Gurston Dacks, "Political Representation In The Northwest Territo-ries," in J. Paul
Johnston and Harvey E. Pasis, eds., Representation and Electoral Systems,
(Scarborough, Ont.: Prentice-Hall, 1990), 144.
17.Dacks, 1990, 144.

Moreover, the absence of partisan division and banter in the NWT legislature may
indeed make it a more pleasant and constructive place to conduct political decision-
making. Some authors in the past have described the NWT variations as 'consensual'
government.18 However, this misnomer mistakes nonpartisanship for consensus and
certainly ignores the hard bargaining and favour-trading between MLAs which
-precede votes on controversial bills.19 Nonetheless, as White points out, "heckling
occurs infrequently and is decidedly mild; speeches, questions and answers are
typically prefaced and concluded with "thank you"; when points of order are raised,
even on contentious issues, the MLAs sit quietly as the Speaker ponders a decision
"20 While these features are perhaps
accept rulings with good grace. beneficial and even unique to the North, they are
not distinctly collectivist or more responsive to communal values than are Southern
parliamentary values.
In sum, individualism fails to characterize accurately the nature of
parliamentary government. Far from springing out of an individualist ethos, the roots
of parliament are based in the collectivist notions of feudalism. Moreover, parliaments
did not and some would argue do not treat individuals with equanimity but rather
facilitate the dominion of soMe people over others. Not only has the institution
privileged a select group of people who share interests based on their class, culture,
religion, and gender, but for most of its
18.Dickerson, 96.
19. White, 509. White points out (510) that Natives do not think that the
legislature reflects consensual decision-making.
20. White, 506.
1 9

history, it has excluded individuals on these grounds. Today, the Canadian
parliament also reflects a collectivist ethos through the procedures of
responsible government, cabinet solidarity, and party discipline. These
procedures and traditions are precisely the ones whose absence in the NWT
legislature distinguish it from others in the country. This is not to argue
that aboriginal values would be better accommodated if these collectivist
proce-dures were reintegrated into the NWT's parliamentary system. The
presence or absence of collectivism in the NWT Legislative Assem-bly would
not make any difference to the legitimacy of that government in the eyes of
aboriginal people. Collectivism is not the antidote for parliamentary
government in the North because individualism ~is not the disease.
Individualism versus Group Representation in the North
A fuller account of what can better explain the failure of par-liamentary
government in the North will be discussed in the third section. But aspects of that
account can be detected in the mistakes of another position, which is that, whereas
most aboriginal Northern-ers prefer collectivist methods of and means to political
represen-tation, nonaboriginal Northerners, Southern Canadians, and par-ticularly the
Federal government, insist on individualism. As previously mentioned, White states
incorrectly that "the parlia-mentary model ... is premised on the representation of
individu-als and not groups.8821 Dacks explains the problems of political
representation in the North by assuming a similar strategy. The
21.White. En7

positions of aboriginal and nonaboriginal Northerners, he claims, diverge
because of the collectivism of one group and the individ-ual i sm nf the rathpr
Like most North Americans [the nonaboriginal population] base their political
thinking on the assumptions of individualism and equality. Both their economic
interests and their philosophic assumptions make most of them dubious about the
aboriginal groups' pursuit of rights that are special, 52ather than univer-sal,
and collective, rather than individual.
Dacks examines the proposal from the Western Constitutional Forum, which
contains many provisions for representation on the basis of culture. Those who
oppose these proposals do so purport-edly because of their individualist values:
"Both [the Canadian government and nonaboriginal Northerners] are understandably
anxious about any deviation from the liberal, individualist representational
formula they view as natural and just (emphasis added).ll23
Although political representation might seem to be an issue which promises to
draw out the contrast between collectivist prefer-ences of the aboriginal community
and individualist practices of par-liamentary government, here again, the waters are
muddied by misno-mers which have the effect of obscuring the nature of power strug-
between thnese communities. Two aspects of political representa-tion are explored
below. First the rules about the duration of resi-dency required before one can vote
in Territorial elections will be examined in the context of a dispute over the issue
between the Trudeau government and the Dene peoples in 1977. At the time, the
22.Dacks, 1990, 138-9.
23.Dacks, 1990, 145.

Prime Mintster's Office (PMO) used what appears to be individual-ist values to
explain its opposition to lengthening these re-quirements. Second, the issues
surrounding Canadian law regarding how electoral boundaries ought to be drawn
as these were raised in the Report and research papers generated for the Roval
Commis-sion on Eleqtoral Law and Partv Financing (1991) and the Supreme
Court decision on Saskatchewan's electoral boundaries24 law will be examined.
As explained below, both residency requirements and electoral boundaries are
considered important means to consoli-datinq the political power of communities.
Residencv Requirements
Unlike the claims about individualism in parliamentary procedures, some
historical evidence seems at first to support the proposition that Canada subscribes to
an individualist representational formula -or at least that it did during the Trudeau
era. In the 1970s, when the exploitation of northern resources was more economically
promising than it is today,25 many nonaboriginal Southerners moved North. In light of
this surge in population, the Dene, Metis and Inuit sought to lengthen the residency
period required to vote in NWT elections from 1 to 10 or 15 y'ears. In addition, the
Dene proposed that the Territo-ries be divided into three different governing units, one
containing an Inuit majorityt one containing a Dene majority, and one containing a
24.Reference re Electoral Boundaries Commission Act (Sask) ss. 14, 20 (l991) 81
D.L.R. (4th) 16 (S.C.C.).
25.See Kenneth Coates and Judith Powell, The Modern North (Toronto. James Lorimer
and Co., 1989), chp 2.
1 5

nonaboriginal majority.26 In response to this proposal, the Federal government
iterated its willingness to protect the Northern population from the threats posed by
transient Southerners, but rejected extend-ing the residency requirement to 10 years
and rejected dividing the NWT in the way that the Dene suggested. In a statement
issued by the PMO in 1977, the Federal government clearly expresses its hostility to
protecting cultural communities in certain ways:
In the North, as in the South, the Government supports cultural diversity as a
necessary characteristic of Canada. However, political structure is something
quite different. Legislative authority and governmental jurisdiction are not
allocated in Canada on grounds that differentiate between the people on the basis
of race. Authority is assigned to legislatures that are representative of all the
people within any area on a basis of complete equality. Jurisdiction is placed in
the hands of govern-ments that are responsible, dire2caly or indirectly, to the
people, - again, without reqard to race.
This statement appears to confirm that Canadian policy was shaped to subscribe to one
understanding of individualism. This understanding held that individuals ought not to
treated differently in politics on the basis of culture. Even at the time, this notion
of individualism was highly controversial in Canada. As Peter Russell argued, if, in the
third sentence of the quote above, one replaces the word 'race' with 'cultural
diversity', then the sentence would "deny the raison d'tre of Quebec in Canadian
Confederation."28 Nonetheless, it might well reflect
26.Dene National Assembly, "Metro Proposal, " in Robert F. Keith and Janet B.
Wright eds., Northern Transitions, v. 2, (Ottawa: Canadian Arctic Resources
Committee, 1978) 265-6.
27.0ffice of the Primeminister, "Political Development in the Northwest Territories,"
in Keith and Wright eds, Northern Transitions, 280.
28.Peter H. Russell, "An Analysis of Prime Minister Trudeau's Paper on Political
Development in the Northwest Territories," in Keith and Wright eds., Northern
Transitions, 296. A similar observation is made by Dacks, 1981, 64.

the sort of approach that Trudeau wanted to take towards Quebec, in which case
the statement is a good example of how the priorities of Southern political
agendas get foisted on the North.29
The question remains though, was Ottawa not imposing individual-ist values on
the North? After all, Trudeau was and continues to be a staunch defender of the
Charter and individual rights. But
-tÇo arguments strongly indicate that individualism was not the value it was
defending in the North. First, if nonaboriginal peoples and the government of
Canada consider representation 'natural and just' only when it subscribes to
individualist values, then it is unclear why, in the PMO's statement, the
Federal government asserts that it considers Southern-style reserves to be a
viable option should Northern aboriginal peoples desire them.30 If the principle
which the government is upholding is that political structures and policies
ought not to distin-guish between people on the basis of race, then how is it
that reserves do not violate this principle? According to Russell they clearly
do. Russell points out the second reason to doubt that individualism is what
motivates Federal opposition when he notes that, in general, the forms of
aboriginal government of which the Federal GovernMent approves are similar
only in terms of being "clearly subservient to more senior governments in which
natives cannot be a preponderant influence''31 and not in terms of whether
29.White mentions some amusing examples of this phenomena with the discussion in
NWT Legislative Assembly of the Elevatinq Devices Safets Act and the Real Estate
Aqents' Licencinq Act. See White, 518.
30.PMO, 280.
31.Russell, 296.

they reaf~firm so-called racial divisions. The implication of the Federal
Government's position in 1977 is that "power becomes "racist" when the unit
in which native peoples might have a predominant influence is not subordinate
to another territorial "32 The Federal government is hostile to political
government. structures WhiCh are not sutordinate to the structures in place.
Whether these new structures are collectivist or not makes no difference.
To understand the Federal government's position in 1977 as born out of a
hostility to collectivism or an anxiousness about deviating from individualism is to
misunderstand entirely the position and the forms of government it was likely to
consider problematic. The conflict between the positions of the Dene and the PMO is
over which cultural community(s) will have more power in the North rather than it is a
matter of individualists and collectivists failing to see eye to eye. The Government
may have used the rhetoric of individualism, but its policy stance contradicted these
same individualist values. Analyses which take at face value the Federal Government's
use of individualist rhetoric obscure the Government's motivation to use whatever
rhetoric it had at its disposal to secure its power over the
Ncrrt h
With regards to the legitimacy of lengthy residency require-ments in the
Canadian system, the arguments of two legal consultants who reported to the NWT
Legislative Assembly in 1983 was that ex-tended residency would likely be viewed by
the courts as a reasonable
32.Russell, 296.
1 R

limit on individual voting rights in the North. Interesting, the values by which the
courts would decide the
matter have more to do with communities struggling against each other than with
individuals strug-gling against
communal constraints. David Nahwegahbow argued that the Court would be influenced
by the historical
precedents in American jurisprudence in which durational residency requirements
were used, not to uphold
individualism, but to exclude the influence of one community upon another.In Dunn v.
Blumstein, the State of
Tennessee argued that durational requirements were necessary in order to protect
against voting fraud and to
ensure that voters were sensitive to the needs of the community and therefore voted
intelligently.33 The Court
held that durational requirements were ineffective ats protecting against fraud and
that using the re-quirement
"to impress upon voters the local viewpoint" was tanta-mount to "'fencing out' from the
franchise a sector of the
popu-lation because of the way they may vote."34
The concern of the American Court is that one community will use the residency
to dominate another community at the ballot box. This is precisely one of the ways in
which white
southerners sought to dominate and exclude black southerners from the political
community. However,
the contemplated use of a lengthy requirement in Canada's North aims at benefiting a
33.Dunn v. Blumstein 31 L Ed 2D 861 cited in David C. Nahwegahbow, "Opinion
Respecting the
Constitutionality of Durational Residency Requirements for Voting in Elections for
Members of the
Legislative Assembly in the Proposed Western Arctic Division of the Northwest
Territories," in ResidencY
Requirments, Legislative Assembly Special Committee on Constitutional Development,
Yellowknife, 1983,
34.Dunn v.Blumstein, 354-55. Cited in Nahwegahbow, 17.

vantaged community and for this reason, would not be dismissed by the
Canadian courts. Nahwegahbow suggests that a lengthy require-ment will be
seen by the courts as a reasonable limit, under section 1 of the Charter, to
section 3 voting rights because of the "delicate and complex life systems in
the north"35 which were highlighted by Justice Berger in the Report of the
Mackenzie Yallev PiPeline Inquirv.36 In 1983, Nahwegahbow concluded that the
Court would not likely find a requirement of over 3 years demonstrably
justified. But the logic of his analysis suggests that if employment cycles
in the North required that transient populations stay in the North for
longer than three years, but not permanently, this evidence would justify
longer residency requirements.In other words, the Court would be receptive
to protecting the North from domination by Southern values as long as it
could be shown that lengthening the residency requirements was the best
means to this end.
So far arguments have been offered for why the values of polit-ical
representation in Canada are not individualistic. First, the Trudeau government used
contradictory arguments against the Dene Metro proposal. The consistent element of
the Government's position reveals its pri'mary concern to be retaining power over
Northern decision-making, not defending individualism. Second, the proposal to
lengthen residency requirements would not likely be found by the courts to be an
unreasonable limit on voting rights if there was a compelling rational for a lengthy
requirement and if it could be
35.Nahwegahbow, 18.
36.Nahwegahow, l9.

shown to be the least restrictive means to alleviate the disad-vantage suffered by
Northern communities. Moreover, the arguments that the court would likely entertain
and the
precedents it would examine frame the issue in terms of competi-tions amongst
communities and
their values rather than between individuals and communities.
Electoral Laws
Canadian electoral boundaries law provides additional evidence that political
representation is designed
in significant ways to empower community values. Rules governing how boundaries
ought to be drawn explicitly
require that electoral districts facilitate the repre-sentation of "territorial units sharing,
insofar as possible, some
unity of interest."37 For example, in 1977, at the time the PMO was declaiming the
Dene proposals, electoral law
required that boundaries be drawn on the basis of 'community of interest'. The PMO
explicitly recognized that
political divisions ought to be sensitive to "common interests such as distinctions of
language, culture and way of
life..."38 The 1985 Representation g affirmed the importance of communal identity and
interest by requiring that
commissions which are established to readjust boundaries must, first, determine
district size on the basis of
representation by population, and, second, adjust district size and boundaries in order
to accommodate "(i) the
37.Alan Stewart, "Community of Interest in Redistricting," in David Small, ed., Drawinq
the MaP Equalitv
and Efficacs of the Vote in Canadian Electoral Boundary Reform, (Toronto and Oxford:
Dundurn Press,
1991), 118.
38. PMO, 280.
~ 1

ty of interest or community of identity in or the historical pattern of an
electoral district in the province, and (ii) a manageable geo-graphic size for
districts in sparsely populated, rural or northern regions of the province."39 The
Act states that departures of up to 25% are allowable in order to accommodate
these factors.
The 1991 Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financ-
-img reaffirmed the importance of community to the Canadian notion of
representation.40 In one of the Commission's research studies, Alan Stewart,
dispels the myth that the Canadian system is designed for individual-based
representation.41 Kent Roach makes the same observation: ""rep by pop" received
some recognition at Confeder-ation but it was also set off through the institutions
of feder-
alism, the Senate, and group considerations in the formation of the
Cabinet.FW42 Will Kymlicka observes that the Royal Commission and Canadian
electoral law both seek to accommodate qroup repre-
'Community of interest' is one of the primary means by which this accommodation
takes place. Stewart explains that "the rationale of the
39.Canada, Representation Act, 1985, s. 6.
40. Royal CommRssion on Electoral Reform and Party Financing, Repor, tReforming
Electoral Democracv, v. 1, (Ottawa, Supply and Services, 1991), 152-3, 183.
41. Alan Stewart, "Community of Interest in Redistricting," in David Small, ed.,
Drawinq the MaP, (Toronto and Oxford: Dundurn Press, 1991), 1 1R
42.Kent Roach, "Chartering the Electoral Map into the Future," in John C. Courtney,
Peterm MacKinnon and David E. Smith eds., Drawinq Bound-aries (Saskatoon: Fifth
Publishers, 1992), 212.
43. Will Kymlicka, "Group Representation in Canadian Politics," in F. Leslie Seidle
ed., Equitv and Communitv (Montreal: IRPP, 1993) 64-65.

principle of community of interest is that electoral districts should be more than
arbitrary, random groupings of individuals. They should be, as far as possible,
cohesive units, areas with common interests related to representation."44 He notes
that the federal legislation treats community of interest as the basic redistricting
concept....|F45 and cites evidence which shows that nearly 758 of those who partici-
-pated in public hearings on readjusting then-current boundaries favoured further
population inequality of district size in order to accommodate other
considerations, many of which are addressed by community of interest.
Approximately at the same time as the Royal Commission was publishing its
report, the Supreme of Canada decided to uphold Sas-katchewan's Electoral Boundaries
law for reasons that emphasize community valuesj particularly the values of minority
and disadvan-taged groups. Writing for the majority on the Court, Justice McLachlin
stated that
factors like geography, community history, community interests and minority
representation may need to be taken into account to ensure that our
legislative assemblies effectively represent the diversity of our social
mosaic. These are but examples of considerations which may justify departure
from absolut4e voter parity in the pursuit of more effective representation.
Roach argues that by giving recognition to "cultural and qroup identi-
_______ ____________
44.Stewart, 124.
45.Stewart, 134.
46.Reference re Electoral Boundaries Commission Act, 26. Cited in Roach, 1992,

ty in the districting process,"47 the Court's decision is consistent both with the
equality rights jurisprudence in Canada and with a more sophisticated understanding
of how to secure effective representation than that offered by the principle of rep-
by-pop. With regards to equality rights, the Court held in 1989, in the path-
breaking Andrews decision, that equality rights are "designed to protect enumerated
_analqgous groups from suffering further discrimination and disadvan-tage.wi48 This
understanding of equality, as well as the goal of effec-tive representation, is
undermined by strictly enforcing the principle of one-person one-vote. According
Stewart, and Robert Dixon, who examines this issue in the American context, effective
represen-tation is jeopardized by a majoritarian, numbers-dominated system because
type of system benefits only large groups.49 Rather than offering effective
representation to all people, rep-by-pop offers no representation to vulnerable
minorities, such as those in the North.50 In recognition of the disadvantage faced by
vulnerable minorities, even the Americans, whose appreciation of individualist values
is usually thought to exceed that of Canada, have been back-peddling on the one-
one-vote principle since the 1960s and have been "using their Voting Rights Act to
prevent the dilution of the voting
47.Kent Roach, "One Person, One Vote? Canadian Constitutional Stand-ards for Electoral
Distribution and Districting," in David Small, ed., Drawinq the MaP: Equalitv and
Efficacv of the Vote in Canadian Elec-toral Boundarv Reform, (Oxford and Toronto:
Dundurn Press, 1991), 65.
48.Roach, 1992, 203.
49.R. G. Dixon, "The Warren Court Crusade for the Holy Grail of 'One Man-One
Vote,"' Supreme Court Law Reveiw 219 (1969): 268. Cited in Roach, 1992, 208.
50.Roach, Drawinq Boundaries, p. 208.

strength of African-Americans and Hispanic Americans.g251
The Canadian Supreme Court clearly indicated in 1991 that indi-vidualism is not
the governing principle of the Canadian notion of fair representation by affirming that
"there must be only relative equality of voting power and that minority representation
is a legitimate reason for departing from equal population standards.gt52 Collective
values and communal interests seem to be accommodated in numerous in Canada's
law. Moreover, according to Roach, Canadian and American notions of effective
representation and Canadian jurisprudence on equality rights demand that collective
interests be recognized.
Regulations over electoral boundaries are clearly not the means to Dene, Metis,
or Inuit self-government in the North no matter how community-sensitive these
regulations prove to be. But what is re-vealed by the previous analysis is that one of
the main obstacles to self-government is not the Canadian government's failure to
appreci-ate collectivist values per se. Rather, the government appears to be motivated,
or did in 1977, by its need to continue to have authority over the people's of the
North. Only with this motivation in mind, can the Government's hostility in 1977
towards protecting Aboriginal communities thbough lengthening residency
or redrawing jurisdictional boundaries be understood.
A similar explanation might need to be employed to decipher why considerations
for 'community of interest and identity' are a priority in drawing electoral boundaries
in all districts in Canada except those
51. Roach, 1992, 208.
52.Roach, 1992, 211.

in the North. The same Act which identifies 'community of interest and identity' as
a basic consideration for drawing electoral boundaries, requires that boundaries in
the NWT be readjusted according to dif-ferent rules. For the NWT, the factors to be
considered, in order of importance are:
(i) ease of transportation and communication within the electoral -- districts,
(ii) geographical size and shape of the electoral distinct relative to one another,
and (iii) any community or diversity of interests of ihe inhabitants of various
regions of the Northwest Territories.5
Neither community of identity nor historical patterns of interest are specified
considerations for redrawing NWT constituencies. Nor is community of interest the
primary consideration in the legislation as it is for electoral districts in Southern
Canada. In amendments to the Act, which will be proposed in 1995, this distinction
between principles used to readjust electoral districts in the NWT and in Southern
Canada are eliminated. The proposed legisla-tion continues to specify that community
interest must be consid-ered.54 However, it redefines community of interest so that it
includes only "the economy, existing or traditional boundaries of electoral dis-tinct,
the urbaJn or rural characteristics of a territory, the boundaries of municipalities
and Indian reserves, natural bound-aries and access to means of communication and
transport."55 So, at the same time as the electoral principle that can be used to
53.Canada, Statutes, Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, s.15(3)(b).
54.s. l9 (2)(b)(i).
55.s. 19(4)-

protect c`ommunities is finally applied to the North, the princi-ple is
redefined so that community of identity and historical pattern are entirely
eliminated as criteria to consider in bound-aries readjustment.
In sum, the preceding analysis of residency requirements and electoral
boundaries law reveal that collectivism and communal values
are and can be respected and empowered in numerous ways through Canadian law and
jurisprudence. Moreover, X examples of deviations from individualist values are
prevalent in the Canadian approach to political representation. X , As in the case of
parliamentary govern-ment, this conclusion does not mean that the interests of
Northern-ers, and specifically those of Aboriginal peoples in the North, can be
accommodated if only the existing law which applies to Southern Canada were to apply
in the North. Since the problem with the principles of political representation are
not the absence of collec-tivism, injecting collectivist values into the present system
is a futile solution. Moreover, analyses which focus on this sort of prob-lem and
solution are likely to divert our attention from what seems, in the preceding
analysis, to be more pressing and direct concerns -namely, why have the collectivist
practices of parliamentary govern-ment been altered in the North? And why has
legislation barred the application of the principles of community of identity and
historical pattern in the North?
Part of the answer to these questions is revealed by returning first to the
question of what, if not individualism, has rendered parliamentary government
illegitimate in the eyes of the aboriginal peoples in the North? Although
parliament is the institution through

which democracy in Britain and Canada developed, it is also the vehi-cle by which
Canada and
Britain designed policies through which they managed the lives of the people who lived
communities they colo-nized. In the Canadian case, parliament was forum in which the
values of
southern Canada or Britain were imposed on aboriginal communities through these
policies. To
put the point slightly differently, parlia-ment.was the vehicle by which the dominance
of one
community was affirmed and continually reaffirmed over otherf
The appropriateness of describing the relation in terms of one
C~Èvs C community dominating another, rather than a battle between individual-
\ C eAC S4e ' s L ist and cDemmEal valuesvis made evident by looking at the sort poli-
imposed on Northern peoples, many of which abused these peoples
in countless ways. Some notorious examples worth recounting only to underline the
approach the government has taken in the North are, (1) the Canadian government's
relocation of Inuit from northern Quebec to the high Arctic in the 1950s and 1960s;
(2) the Canadian government's and Church's attempt to replace aboriginal values with
southern Cana-dian and distinctly Christian values by splitting up families and
removing children to residential schools. The education these children received, it
should be remembered, did not only entail reading and wri'ting, but involved forcing
the children to wear nonaboriginal clothing, eat food that was foreign to them and,
forbidding them to communicate in their own language; (3) the government's aÀtempt
impose on the Inuit the adoption of southern-style identification practices, which,
because of the cultural chauvinism of this policy, has collided with Inuit
values and created a class of women whose hirths have nover heen

registered. These women now have no legal status in Canada.56
These practices and policies are a far cry from ones which respect individuals.
Rather they are policies which reflect the domina-tion ethos of a colonizer. Moreover,
they are policies that were designed and passed within the purported democratic
procedures of parliamentary government. If it is this colonizer that aboriginal
-peoples of the North see as symbolized by the trappings of parlia-ment, then it is
hardly difficult to understand why that government lacks legitimacy.
Although parliamenttprocedure can be used to pass oppressive or enlightened
policies, the institution ory nonctheloss containSsymbols
5Be of oppression that arekrepulsive to those who have been
dominated by these policies. For example, the day-to-day formalities-of parliamen-
government in the North include "the formal Speaker's parade, led by the Sergeant-at-
Arms carrying the mace, followed by the Speaker and black-robed clerks." MLAs are
expected to participate in the North as in the South in rituals which symbolize acts
of submission such as bowing to the Speaker and the mace.57 These rituals, as White
points out, have deep symbolic value. But it seems that White does not believe that
these "symbols of colonial domination" adequately explain the lack of leXitimacy of
parliament amongst natives, because he focuses upon what is implied to be a larger
more insidious prob-lem, namely the emphasis on individualism and the absence of
collectiv-ism in the parliamentary form.
56.See Valeria Alia, Names Numbers and Northern Policv: Inuit, Profiect Surname and
Politics of Identitv, (Halifax: Fernwood Publishing, 1994).
57.White, 506.

Contrary to his conclusion, collectivism is not jeopardized by
parliamentarianism. Rather the key problems are surely exemplified by these rituals
which, far from seeking to undermine community values, signal ritualized submission
to the domination of a community - namely Canada or Britain - and its particular
values. Moreover, oftentimes, the particular values of Canada or Britain as they
were imposed on
the North, show a ruthless disregard for individuals. The trappings of the purported
democratic government in the North emphasize and reemphasis the traditions and
of a cultural community which seeks to dominate other communities As Whittington
points out, the repeated failure of experiments with different political forms in the
North indicates the reluctance of aboriginal peoples to replace their old customs with
new ones which are the constructs of their oppres-sors.58 The problem is not the
respect given to individuals over their communities. Rather, it is the respect given
to one community's values and the profound disrespect given to those of another
While there is no doubt that cultural differences can be re-flected in political
values, in the case of the Northern aboriginal communities, the coercive and
oppressive measures of the Canadian government towards aboriginal peoples and the
ritualized submission to
_ _ _ _ _
this community symbolized' parliamentary traditions clearly undermineS
the legitimacy of parliamentary government in the-*aee~. By framing the problem in
terms of the presence or absence of collectivism, analysis slides over this
oppression, and seems to explain problems of
58.Michael S. Whittington, "Canada's North in the 1990s," in Michael S. Whittington and
Glen Williams, eds., Canadian Politics in the 1990s 3rd edition, (Scarborough, Ont.:
Nelson, 1990), 29.

legitimacy in terms of failed good intentions. The reader is told about past
injustices but then led to focus upon a relatively innocent cultural difference
namely the difference between individualist and collectivist values. The reality is
that all the cultures concerned have individualist and collectivist values entrenched
in their prac-
~4ht ticesg. And while cultural differences are no less real in light of this
-asto individualism fails to reflect the values which have been applied in
parliamentary decision-making and moreover, certainly fails to be evident in the ways
in which the Canadian government has treated aboriginal peoples in the North.
With regards to conflicts over representation, again individual-ism and
collectivism are not the values over which disputes between aboriginal Northerners
and the Canadian government occur. Rather, these power struggles are ones about
governing body will ulti-mately determine the future of the North. Individualist and
anti-col-lectivist values may be employed by nonaboriginal peoples including the
Federal Government in this struggle. But they are employed in-strumentally along with
collectivism, colonial domination, ritualized submission, and whatever other tools
prove successful.
To misunderstand disagreements about political development in the North as
premised upon a divergence between individualist and collectivist values debilitates
analysis in at least three ways. First, it promotes seriously distorted understandings
about what individual-ism entails. Individualism is described as a source from which
springs everything from centralized and hierarchical government to a notion of
that requires complete cultural homogeneity. Absent is the historical development of
the concept and its current use in most political theory as rooted in doctrines about
self-development and

personal integrity. So in the course of misrepresenting the concept, these
analyses also obscure the resources within liberal individualism which could be
employed by disadvantaged minorities to promote cul-tural security and self-
Second, these analyses distort the notion of collectivism and convey the
impression that collectivism is a value particularly suited
to the struggles of cultural minorities and, more precisely, to the struggles of
aboriginal peoples in the North. In this respect, the conceptual misunderstanding is
potentially the most insidious. Collec-tivism, like individualism, can be used for
progressive or extremely regressive purposes. Colonialism and policies that reflect
racist attitudes towards communities themselves embody collectivist notions of racial,
ethnic or cultural superiority, and often promote strongly to the point of coercing
one community to abandon its values and adopt those of another community. Very
room is available under colonialism to respect individuals, to treat them as self-
directing, and to protect their self-development.
Third, analyses which lead us to suppose that the problems of the North and of
aboriginal people are created innocuously enough by liberal individualism, and could
be solved by collectivism distort and obscure the colonial domination and racism which
has been imposed on these people by governments of Canada. As such they obscure the
ways in which the problems of political legitimacy can be resolved in the North. ...
59. For an account of these resources See Will Kymlicka, Liberalism, Community and
Culture, (Oxford: Oxford Universitv Press, 1989).