Sociology Index


While the term self-government is as yet without a clear definition, as used by the federal government it means something like self-determination. "Every man, and every body of men on earth, possesses the right of self-government." - Thomas Jefferson: Opinion on Residence Bill, 1790. ME 3:60.

"[The] voluntary support of laws, formed by persons of their own choice, distinguishes peculiarly the minds capable of self-government. The contrary spirit is anarchy, which of necessity produces despotism." --Thomas Jefferson to Philadelphia Citizens, 1809. ME 16:328

"We are a people capable of self-government, and worthy of it." --Thomas Jefferson to Isaac Weaver, Jr., 1807. ME 11:220.

"[It is a] happy truth that man is capable of self-government, and only rendered otherwise by the moral degradation designedly superinduced on him by the wicked acts of his tyrant." --Thomas Jefferson to M. de Marbois, 1817. ME 15:130

"When forced to assume [self-government], we were novices in its science. Its principles and forms had entered little into our former education. We established, however, some, although not all its important principles." --Thomas Jefferson to John Cartwright, 1824. ME 16:44.

The Indian Act replaced traditional Indian governments with band councils that acted as agents of the federal government.

These councils only exercise those powers granted by the Indian Act. Whatever form self-government takes it would involve legislative changes to give First Nations peoples the tools to be much more self-determining.

For some First Nations peoples the idea of self-government is an acknowledgment of nationhood.

For these groups their status as self-determining nations was never given up through colonization or treaties, so to have self-government recognized is seen as an acknowledgment of this earlier, and continuing, nationhood.

As currently envisaged by federal and provincial governments, self government is not equivalent to territorial sovereignty, although it implies extensive legal autonomy within the general framework of the federal government's overriding power to make provision for ‘peace, order and good government’.

Every nation of people may not be capable of self-government. But it has been proved that an educated and enlightened people are capable of self-government.

Japan’s system of local self-government is founded on two main principles. First, it provides for the right to establish autonomous local public entities that are, to a certain extent, independent of the national government. Second, it embraces the idea of “citizens’ self-government,” by which residents of these local areas participate in and handle, to varying degrees, activities of the local public entities. Japan’s system of local self-government originates in the pre–World War II period, primarily from the concept of autonomous local entities. After the war, the concept of citizens’ self-government was incorporated to a greater extent.

Provisional Institutions of Self-Government (Albanian: Institucionet e p�rkohshme t� vet�qeverisjes, or 'PISG' are the local administrative bodies in Kosovo established by the United Nations administration ('UNMIK') in that province under the terms of UNSCR 1244.

European Charter of Local Self-Government (Strasbourg, 15 October 1985)
The European Charter of Local Self-Government opened for signature by the member States of the Council of Europe on 15 October 1985 and entered into force on 9 September 1988. The Committee of the Regions of the European Union calls for the principle of local self-government, as defined by the Charter, to be included in the Community treaties. Moreover, the Committee of the Regions works together with the Council of Europe's Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe (CLRAE) with a view to monitoring the implementation of the Charter.

Prepared by: Jill Wherrett, Political and Social Affairs Division
Prior to contact with Europeans, Aboriginal peoples relied on a variety of distinctive ways to organize their political systems and institutions. Later, many of these institutions were ignored or legally suppressed while the federal government attempted to impose a uniform set of vastly different Euro-Canadian political ideals on Aboriginal societies.
For many Aboriginal peoples, self-government is seen as a way to regain control over the management of matters that directly affect them and to preserve their cultural identities. Self-government is referred to as an "inherent" right, a pre-existing right rooted in Aboriginal peoples’ long occupation and government of the land before European settlement. Many Aboriginal peoples speak of sovereignty and self-government as responsibilities given to them by the Creator and of a spiritual connection to the land. Aboriginal peoples do not seek to be granted self-government by Canadian governments, but rather to have Canadians recognize that Aboriginal governments existed long before the arrival of Europeans and to establish the conditions that would permit the revival of their governments. Treaty Indians often point to treaties with the Crown as acknowledging the self-governing status of Indian nations at the time of treaty signing.

Aboriginal Title and Self-Government in Canada: What is the True Scope of Comprehensive Land Claims Agreements? - Jennifer E. Dalton, York Centre for Public Policy and Law, York University; Osgoode Hall Law School - Windsor Review of Legal and Social Issues, Vol. 22, pp. 29-78, 2006
Abstract: This article argues that there is currently insufficient recognition by the Canadian government of Aboriginal title and self-government as crucial components of comprehensive land claims agreements. While formal government recognition of Aboriginal self-government has occurred, for the most part comprehensive agreements do not incorporate robust conceptions of self-government. Moreover, in practice, federal policies of blanket and partial extinguishment of Aboriginal title have been a source of significant contention for Aboriginal peoples. In order to rectify the historical injustice committed against Aboriginal peoples, including the harm of colonial assimilation, it is imperative that recognition of Aboriginal title and self-government fill primary roles in comprehensive land claims agreements. This article employs a comparative approach, assessing Canadian government recognition of Aboriginal title and self-government alongside that laid out by the Supreme Court of Canada.