Voices of Change: Participatory Research in the United States and Canada

By Peter Park; Mary Brydon-Miller et al. | Go to book overview

9
Aboriginal Organizations in Canada: Integrating Participatory Research

MARLENE BRANT CASTELLANO

Participatory research methodology has evolved from microlevel activities, often stimulated by intellectuals from outside the community, in environments where the population is disadvantaged or marginalized. Several writers ( Jackson and McKay 1982; Tandon 1984; Rahman 1985) have observed that the vision of social change which inspires participatory research theorists is constrained in its realization by the macrostructure of the society in which the research takes place.

The language of participatory research often implies that macrostructural change through a liberation process will provide the optimum environment for people's empowerment. In the Third World context, where participatory research has been conceptualized and where social and political forms are more or less volatile, defining a prerevolutionary or postrevolutionary role for participatory research practice may be an appropriate way of gaining perspective on where the local activity sits in the larger sociopolitical scene. In practice among Native people in Canada the language of liberation has less intuitive appeal and practical value, for a number of reasons.

Canada is a liberal democracy in which the participation of all segments of society is ostensibly encouraged. The constitutional underpinnings of the Canadian federation, drawn from two founding nations, explicitly support bilingualism. As the ethnic mosaic in the nation has become more pronounced in recent years, the official attitude to cultural diversity has become more than permissive. The positive value of multiculturalism is actively communicated by a number of state agencies, both federal and provincial.

Encouraged by official tolerance of diversity and recent success in gaining recognition of their unique status as Aboriginal peoples, Native people tend to deny intent to change fundamental structures of Canadian society. They

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