Research profile: Dr. Alcantara

Wilfrid Laurier University professor Christopher Alcantara recently received a standard research grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, which will allow him to conduct research in his field of political science for the next two years.

Alcantara explained that this research project, which is being done with his colleague, Jen Nelles, concerns governmental relations between First Nations and municipalities, and indigenous and non-indigenous peoples.

“Everyone has ignored the relationship between First Nations and municipalities,” stated Alcantara. “No one had written on [this subject before] or understood how important [municipal agreements] were … there is a real lack of information … I thought this would be an opportunity for myself and my colleague to fill that gap.”

Some types of municipal agreements being examined concern garbage removal, communication protocol and sharing parks. Alcantara hopes to find out what other types of agreements have been made, how they began, why some have been signed while others haven’t and what their outcomes produce.
Right now, phone calls are being made to every municipality in Saskatchewan, Ontario, Nova Scotia and the Yukon to find out what types of agreements have been made.

“We’re building a database of agreements … of all the agreements that exist in these provinces and one territory, and hopefully across Canada,” explained Alcantara.

Afterwards, fieldwork will be done. Interviews will take place to find out how certain agreements are affecting both indigenous and non-indigenous peoples living in these municipalities.

“We want to give a better insight into the relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples in Canada,” explained Alcantara. “We want to help policy makers and politicians in municipal and First Nations communities to understand some of the factors that can generate agreements … and understand how these agreements affect their communities.”

Alcantara also recently published a book, Beyond The Indian Act: Restoring Aboriginal Property Rights, which was shortlisted for the 2010-2011 Donner Book Prize. It examines property right laws concerning Aboriginal peoples, and essentially argues that their original property rights need to be restored.

“The legislation [should] allow First Nations these simple property rights; the same property rights [enjoyed] off reserves,” stated Alcantara.

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