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2004 Conference:
Consent as the Foundation for Political Community

Inaugural Conference of the Consortium on Democratic Constitutionalism
University of Victoria, 1-3 October 2004

Preliminary Program:


The chair of the organizing committee for the workshop, Jeremy Webber, circulated a draft paper in mid-summer that a) reviewed ways in which consent is invoked as a foundation for political community; b) identified tensions and ambiguities in consent; c) introduced similar tensions in the context of indigenous/non-indigenous relations; and d) explored possible ways of reconceiving the issues to capture what may be valuable but shed what is misleading in the invocation of consent. The paper was designed to help focus presenters’ papers and workshop discussion on a set of critical questions.

To view paper please click here

Workshop Program:

FRIDAY,   October 1:

The conference began with the conference dinner, at 6 pm on the evening of Friday, October 1. Following the main course, John Borrows and Jeremy Webber discussed the purpose of and aspirations for the conference.

There was a session of the Victoria Colloquium on Political, Social and Legal Theory on Friday afternoon, delivered by Professor Rebecca Tsosie, Lincoln Professor of Native American Law and Ethics, Arizona State University on the topic: "Acknowledging the Past to Heal the Future: The Role of Reparations for Native Nations."

Professor Tsosie's paper is available here.

2:30-4:00pm        VICTORIA COLLOQUIUM, Rm.152 (Murray & Anne Fraser Bldg., UVic)

4:15-6:00pm        PRE-DINNER RECEPTION   (University Club -- *cash bar available)

6:00pm                 DINNER   (University Club)

SATURDAY,  October 2:

8:00am                REGISTRATION
LOCATION:         Halpern Centre for Graduate Studies  (UVic Campus)

8:45am                WELCOME GREETING

9:00-10:45am      SESSION  1:

Consent and the Foundation of Political Community


John Borrows, Law, UVic: "Human Agency, Treaty and Political Theories of Consent"

David Dyzenhaus, Law and Philosophy, University of Toronto: "Consent, Legitimacy and the Foundation of Political and Legal Authority"      
Abstract   |   Paper

Margaret Moore, Political Studies, Queen’s: "Political Legitimacy and Indigenous People"

    • This session introduced and discussed the theoretical concerns of the workshop proper, exploring the role of consent in theories of political legitimacy. The paper circulated during the summer served as one starting point for this discussion.

11:00am-12:45pm    SESSION  2:

Consent, Treaty and Cultural Syncretism in Relations between Indigenous
and non-Indigenous Societies


Glen Coulthard, PhD candidate in Political Science, University of Toronto: "Culture, Consent, and the State in the Struggles of Indigenous Peoples for Recognition and Self-Determination: Social Constructivism and the Politics of Critique"   

Janna Promislow, PhD candidate, Osgoode Hall Law School and Exec Director, Centre for Constitutional Studies, University of Alberta:: "Trading on Pity: An Exploration of Intersocietal Normativity inRelations Between Cree and Hudson's Bay Company Traders in the Eighteenth Century"

Dale Turner, Government and Native American Studies, Dartmouth College: "Word Warriors and Wisdomkeepers: The Politics of Indigenous Consent"

    • This session explored the role of consent and of related concepts in relations between indigenous and non-indigenous societies. The concept of treaty was a primary focus, the participants examining the role of consent, contract and perhaps other principles in treaty relations. But this session also examined less explicit means of intercultural relations, such as acculturation, cultural syncretism, and cultural imposition, in their relationship to ostensibly consensual forms.

12:45-2:00pm     LUNCH  (provided on location)

2:00-3:45pm      SESSION  3:

The Foundations of Political Community in Indigenous Societies


Paul Chartrand, Law, University of Saskatchewan: "Nationhood among the Mechif and Cree of southern Manitoba"   
Abstract & Paper

Val Napoleon, PhD candidate in Law and History, UVic: "Living Together: Gitksan Legal Reasoning as a Foundation for Consent"

Audra Simpson, Postdoctoral Fellow, Anthropology and Native Studies, Cornell University, "The Role of Political Self-designation, Self-description and Subjectivity in the Constitution of Indigenous Nations"

    • This session explored indigenous conceptions of political community, in particular how First Nations conceive of the relationship of consent, human agency, and individual adherence to political community.

4:00-5:45pm      SESSION  4:

Alternative Means of Conceiving of Human Agency in the Formation of Political Community


Michael Asch, Anthropology, UVic: "Self-Determination and Treaty-Making:
Consent and the Resolution of Political Relations between First Nations and Canada"


Duncan Ivison, Political Science, University of Toronto: "Consent and the subject of rights"
Abstract   |   Paper

David Kahane, Philosophy, University of Alberta: "Community and Consent: Issues From and For Deliberative Democratic Theory"   
Speaking notes

    • This session returned to the theoretical issues of consent and human agency in the foundation of political communities generally, exploring more complex, dialogic, and less individualistic conceptions such as treaty, notions of willing adherence associated with coming of age, or adherence through participation in the deliberative institutions of a community.

    5:45pm             MEETING ADJOURNS FOR THE DAY

SUNDAY,   October 3:

8:30-10:15am     SESSION  5:

Institutional Consequences


Jeff Corntassel, Indigenous Governance, University of Victoria, "Arbiters of Unconsenting Nations: The Role of Global Institutions in Indigenous Self-Determination"

Tim Rowse, Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University, "The complexity of the object of consent: some Australian stories"     
Abstract & Paper

Ria Tzimas, Ministry of the Attorney-General, Government of Ontario, "Using Consultation to Achieve Consent: A Formula for Aboriginal/Non-Aboriginal Reconciliation"

    • This session explored some of the institutional ramifications of the preceding discussions of the role of consent. These may include: the role of democratically representative and deliberative institutions, and of referenda; the design of modern processes for treaty negotiation and ratification; mechanisms for fostering aboriginal/non-aboriginal reconciliation.

10:30am-12:00pm      SESSION  6:

Theoretical Summation and Reflections


Taiaiake Alfred, Indigenous Governance, UVic

Gordon Christie
, Law, University of British Columbia

Jennifer Nedelsky, Law and Political Science, University of Toronto

James Tully, Political Science, Law and Philosophy, UVic

    • This session did not involve papers prepared in advance. The speakers presented their reflections on the previous discussions, the insights gained, and the consequences for our understanding of the role of consent in the foundation of political community, canvassing possible ways forward. This session laid the foundation for future collaboration.

12:00noon     WORKSHOP CLOSING

    • At the close of the workshop, plans for the new Consortium on Democratic Constitutionalism were discussed, soliciting feedback and expressions of interest.

    12:15pm        LUNCH   (light lunch provided)