In this article, we examine techniques to increase Aboriginals’ representation in Parliament; notably, by creating more Aboriginal majority ridings. Currently, representatives to Parliament are elected from geographically defined constituencies. While this system has certain advantages (particularly increasing the accountability of the representative to electors), it can create significant barriers for national or ethnic minorities if they form distinct political communities. The system means that a minority group can only elect a candidate of choice if they form a plurality within a riding; otherwise the majority group will consistently outvote them. Under conditions of political polarization, a minority group may be unable to elect even a single representative. Parliamentary constituencies are not fixed, however, and the decennial revision of riding boundaries offers an opportunity to improve Indigenous political representation and participation in the federal government. In the most recent systematic proposal, the 1991 Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing recommended the creation of Aboriginal plurality constituencies. Plans to reserve seats for Aboriginal representatives were proposed at the provincial level in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Quebec. None were accepted or implemented. In general, Aboriginals live scattered over large geographic areas and/or tend to live among non-Aboriginals, and it is therefore difficult to create ridings with Aboriginal majorities or pluralities. We examine the possibility of creating non-contiguous ridings to facilitate the concentration of Aboriginal voters into constituencies where they would form pluralities or majorities. This technique – placing geographically distant communities of Indigenous electors into the same district – could produce representational proportionality in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and substantial increases in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec. Such non-contiguous ridings not only create majorities, but they also place more Aboriginal electors in majority constituencies.
- Forest, B. (2015, april). Contiguity, Political Community, and the Problem of Minority Representation. Communication presented at the Political Geography Specialty Group “Pre Conference”, Chicago.
- Forest, B. (2014, july). Improving Minority Representation in Canada through the Red Chamber. Communication at the International Political Science Association Annual Conference, Montreal.
- Forest, B. (2013, june). Options for increasing Minorities’ Parliamentary Representation in Canada. Communication presented at the Canadian Political Science Association Annual Conference, Victoria.
- Forest, B. & Medeiros, M. (2012, april). “It’s time for effective representation for national minorities“. Montreal Gazette Op-Ed page.