Our research

We want to understand the role of digital technologies such as Internet voting in First Nations communities. Our research engages a number of First Nations communities that have either used, or plan to implement digital technology for community consultations within the coming years. By working together we hope to answer important questions about how such technologies impact participation and governance in these communities.

Key research questions

  1. Does Internet voting increase political participation in First Nation communities?

  2. Does Internet voting improve outreach and inclusion of community members (e.g., youth, off-reserve)?

  3. What kinds of barriers or problems are there in implementing Internet voting?

The context

First Nations in Canada are at the forefront of experimenting with new forms of self-government and institutional design. As part of these developments, a number of communities are interested to try new digital technologies such as Internet voting. Traditional forms of consultation such as community meetings and discussions in family circles will remain vital. However, it is important to learn whether (and how best) digital technologies might be leveraged to enhance processes of community consultation, and in turn foster greater certainty that decisions are a true reflection of community interests. So while local experiments in Internet voting are good, it is vitally important to compare different strategies and choices in adoption, to examine the participatory outcomes of Internet votes, and then share what we learn across communities. Systematic research in this area will be invaluable to communities who seek to make their own informed decisions about how to best proceed in advancing modern governance structures and processes that are responsive to the needs and interests their people.

Who we are

The study team is led by McMaster University researcher Dr. Chelsea Gabel (Department of Health, Aging & Society; Indigenous Studies). In addition to university researchers, the project brings together a unique collaboration of First Nations, government, non-government and industry partners. All partners in this project are eager to develop insights and strategies for harnessing digital technologies to enhance participation and the quality of governance for First Nation communities. The project will support the development of ongoing, reciprocal relationships among researchers and First Nation communities. Whitefish River First Nation is one of the project partners.

The research is funded by the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

Our partners

This partnership includes First Nations communities in Ontario that plan to implement Internet voting and e-democracy within the coming year (Whitefish River First Nation, Dokis First Nation, Nipissing First Nation, Six Nations of the Grand River), the Union of Ontario Indians, Elections Canada, industry partner Scytl (a firm involved in developing Internet voting and e-democracy software), Keewaytinook Okimakanak Research Institute (a Research Institute overseeing the ‘First Mile’ initiative and K-Net, a telecommunications and ICT infrastructure serving over 100 First Nation communities across Ontario and parts of Canada), Ryerson’s Centre for Indigenous Governance, the Carleton University Survey Centre, York University’s Institute for Social Research and McMaster University.

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Centre for e-democracy
Elections Canada
Nipissing First Nation
Dokis First Nation
Whitefish River First Nation
the Union of Ontario Indians
Keewaytinook Okimakanak Research Institute
Ryerson’s Centre for Indigenous Governance
Carleton University Survey Centre
York University’s Institute for Social Research
SSHRC
McMaster University