Abstract

The research conducted here looks at the current Urban Aboriginal Strategy (UAS) in Toronto. The purpose of this Strategy is to provide long-term investments to support Aboriginal communities in urban settings by focusing on three priority areas: improving life skills; promoting job training, skills, and entrepreneurship; and supporting Aboriginal women, children, and families. This article seeks to answer the following question: Does the UAS provide Aboriginal participants with the ability to effectively participant in the consultation process? It argues that the UAS process of consulting with the urban Aboriginal community does not allow for the effective participation of Aboriginal peoples because of problematics related to consulting in an urban setting and despite the language of partnership, the federal government still reserves the right to make final decisions. These problems diminish the ability to build renewed Aboriginal-State relations based on mutual respect and trust, which has been absent within the Aboriginal-State apparatus and resulted in the political exclusion of Aboriginals in Canada. Though consultation can be a vehicle for empowering participants with decision-making authority, this is not the case in Toronto. The lack of a common vision, political buy-in, and the aura of secrecy leads to a political relationship built on mistrust. Mistrust between members and government renders the consultation process ineffective. This article combines the literature on public consultations with official government documents to identify critical components that must be evident for consultations to be fruitful and participation effective. These criteria are the benchmarks upon which to measure effectiveness. Based on interviews with the Steering Committee, this article finds that the UAS process of consulting with the Toronto Aboriginal community does not enable Aboriginal participants to effectively participate in the democratic process.

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