Abstract and Keywords
Indigenous movements in Canada and Latin America have adopted contrasting stances in relation to electoral politics. Whereas Indigenous peoples in Latin America have generally made demands on the state through electoral and legislative means, Aboriginal peoples in Canada have tended to reject the electoral process, relying instead on the courts and legal system to press their demands. What explains the variation in Indigenous movement strategies in Canada and Latin America? How effective have the respective strategies been in reintroducing the Indigenous Question into national political debates? This chapter explores the common challenges and pitfalls associated with electoral participation for Indigenous peoples. The chapter contrasts the experiences of Aboriginal peoples in Canada with their counterparts in Ecuador and Bolivia, home to Latin America’s most nationally successful Indigenous-based parties to date. The central argument of the study is that institutional rules and arrangements create incentives for social actors to work from within or outside of the formal political system. Permissive institutional environments, such as the proportional representation systems in Ecuador and Bolivia, create ample opportunities for Indigenous groups to form their own political parties and contest elections. Canada’s “first past the post” electoral system raises significant barriers to new party formation and minority representation. In Ecuador and Bolivia, Indigenous movements entered into mainstream politics in the mid-1990s after electoral reforms created a more favorable set of institutional opportunities. In Canada, voting system reform campaigns have largely been unsuccessful. The chapter also suggests that in areas where Indigenous groups tend to be more isolated or remote from the state and the dominant society, such as the Amazonian lowlands of Ecuador and Bolivia and portions of northern Canada, Indigenous peoples are more likely to engage in electoral politics. In such cases, electoral participation serves as a means for excluded groups to gain a political foothold, advance Indigenous agendas, and obtain resources for community development.
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