Aboriginal Governance Index
For over a decade, the Frontier Centre for Public Policy has been examining better First Nation governance as a means of improving the living standards of Aboriginals. At the time of writing, the government was considering a law mandating the disclosure of band chief and councillor salaries and benefits. Early in December 2011, the government introduced a far-reaching law to reform First Nation band elections, which includes an extension of chief and councillor terms as well as clear offences and penalties for breaking election laws. Obviously, First Nation governance reform is on the government’s radar.
As the only think-tank in Canada that has interacted directly with First Nations to study and measure grassroots opinion on this important topic, the Frontier Centre finds itself uniquely situated to comment on reserve governance. Our Aboriginal Governance Index (AGI) Project is probably the most difficult research project in Canada’s think-tank world. Our team had thousands of meetings with ordinary First Nation residents in the three Prairie provinces. The team travelled thousands of kilometres, often over challenging terrain, to generate a treasure trove of opinion surveys. To put it all together was an expensive effort involving unique staffing challenges, creative information-collection approaches (i.e., getting access to reserves), leasing vehicles, using specialized software and computer equipment, and some telephone surveying.
This effort has provided Canada’s only independent barometer of opinion on the quality of First Nation governance and services. We consider this a privilege that carries a responsibility to be open and honest in our methods and to use the Index as a tool for improvement in the communities we survey.
The AGI is a measurement of the perception of governance on First Nations by First Nations peoples on the Prairies in four broad categories of governance—services, elections, human rights and transparency. If anything, our Index clearly tells us what expectations reserve residents have of their local governments and whether and how those governments are meeting these expectations. The Index has certainly grown, expanded and evolved over the years. It started almost as an informal add-on to reserve visits by Frontier in Manitoba in 2006. Since then, the Index has expanded to include Saskatchewan and Alberta, and it includes communities that are remote and difficult to reach.
Previous Aboriginal Governance Reports: