Citizens Plus
288 pages, 6 x 9
Release Date:01 May 2001
Release Date:01 Oct 2007

Citizens Plus

Aboriginal Peoples and the Canadian State

UBC Press

We are in the midst of a fundamental re-evaluation of the desired relation of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples to each other, and of how the former are to be institutionally and constitutionally accommodated within Canada. Words matter. How we think about where we are and about the future goal of our relationship can confine us in an intellectual prison or liberate us from choices we will otherwise regret.

In Citizens Plus, Alan Cairns unravels the historical record to clarify the current impasse in negotiations between Aboriginal peoples and the state. He considers the assimilationist policy assumptions of the imperial era, examines more recent government initiatives, and analyzes the emergence of the nation-to-nation paradigm given massive support by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.

We are battered by contending visions, he argues – a revised assimilation policy that finds its support in the Canadian Alliance Party is countered by the nation-to-nation vision, which frames our future as coexisting solitudes. Citizens Plus stakes out a middle ground with its support for constitutional and institutional arrangements which will simultaneously recognize Aboriginal difference and reinforce a solidarity which binds us together in common citizenship. Essential reading for those in political science, history, Native studies, public administration, and law, Citizens Plus will also appeal to the general public interested in one of the most important and complex issues on our agenda.

Selected as a BC Book for Everybody


  • 2000, Runner-up - Donner Prize, Donner Foundation
  • 2002, Shortlisted - Harold Adams Innis Prize, Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences
[This book] is an exciting and provocative investigation of the importance of citizenship in the modern age. Cairn’s work deserves a broad and diverse audience. Ken Coates, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Vol. 26, No. 1
A remarkable and well-researched study  that adds a measure of sanity to the often histrionic debate over Aboriginal rights and redresses in Canada. ... a cogent and compelling argument for integration as the middle road. Suzanne Methot, Quill & Quire
... in his book, Citizens Plus, he’s on to some wider possibilities that might bridge the dangerously widening divide between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians... It puts the emphasis on what we share in common the foundation of sensible mutual relations, rather than on the idea that we share next to nothing or that aboriginals’ distinctiveness is of no value to them or us. Jeffrey Simpson, The Globe and Mail
Citizens Plus is a wonderfully informed, well-documented and balanced analysis of the issues, and political and legal debates concerning the position of Aboriginal peoples in Canada. More importantly, it’s a refreshing work since it addresses in a positive and realistic manner the fatal flaws that surround much of the debate. The Donner Prize Jury
Alan C. Cairns is professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia where he was a member of the Department of Political Science from 1960 until his retirement in 1995. He was awarded the 1982 Molson Prize and, in 1998, was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. He is the author and editor of numerous books and articles on federalism, the constitution, and the charter.



1. Empire

The Complex Problem of “Voice”

History and Humility

Empire at Home and Abroad

The Cultural Terrain over which the Battle Is Fought

How Did We Get to Where We Are?


2. Assimilation

Basic Assimilation Policy

The 1969 White Paper

Academic and Political Support

Aboriginal Support

Paternalism and the Culture of Leadership

Significance of White Paper Defeat

Preliminary Remarks



3. Choice

A Time of Transition

The Influence of the Past

The Requirements of Good Aboriginal Constitutional Policy

Assimilation versus Parallelism: Warring Paradigms

How We See Ourselves: The Discourse of Contrast

An Alternative Vision: A Modernizing Aboriginality

A Basis for Living Apart and Together

Self-Government as an Exit Option


4. The Constitutional Vision of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples

A Many-Splendoured but Problematic Report

The Constitutional Vision of RCAP

Relative Neglect of the Urban Dimension

Ancestry versus Identity

Cultural Survival versus Economic Opportunity

The Centrality of Nation

The Nation-to-Nation Approach

A Third Order of Aboriginal Government

Law, Not Politics

Representation at the Centre


5. The Choice Revisited

An Early Vision: Citizens Plus

Aboriginal Rights and Aboriginal Nations

The Opening Up of the Debate

Academic Activism and Legal Scholarship

Land Claims, Treaty Negotiations, Self-Government, and Citizenship

Political Science and “What Will Hold Us Together?”

Interdependence and Other Realities

An Outward-Looking Aboriginality

Empathy and Citizenship





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