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Research with Indigenous Communities

Researchers intending to conduct research related to Indigenous peoples, communities and institutions as participants are expected to  become familiar with "Research Involving First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples of Canada," Chapter 9 in the Tri-Council Policy Statement - Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (2014).​

General Principals:

  1. Community engagement is required.
  2. Researchers must recognize and engage Aboriginal/Indigenous Peoples organizations, service organizations and communities of interest as communities.
  3. A community engagement plan must be developed and provided to the REB for review.
  4. First Nations, Metis and Inuit governing authorities must be respected.
  5. Researchers who wish to be exempt from the requirement of community engagement must provide a written rationale to the REB for review.
  6. Research involving critical inquiry within or about Aboriginal/Indigenous Peoples communities, may not require community engagement and/or community consent.
  7. Research involving secondary data analysis – and in particular the use of biological materials – is subject to research ethics review.
  8. Researchers must address the issues of intellectual property, data interpretation and dissemination of results prior to commencement of research.

For additional information on how to respectfully engage in research with Indigenous peoples, please refer to:

  1. The First Nations Principals of OCAP. First Nations Information Governance Centre.
  2. CIHR Guidelines for Health Research Involving Aboriginal Peoples (archived)
  3. Martin-Hill, D., and D. Soucy. 2005. Ganono'se'n e yo'gwilode' - Ethical Guidelines for Aboriginal Research Elders and Healers Roundtable Commissioned by the Aboriginal Ethics Policy Development Project and supported by the Ethics Office of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
  4. Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies – Ethical Principals for the Conduct of Research in the North
  5. The Ethics of Research Involving Indigenous Peoples. Report of the Indigenous Peoples’ Health Research Centre to the Interagency Advisory Panel on Research Ethics

Walking Together: Applying OCAP® to College Research in Central Alberta, is a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada funded Knowledge Synthesis project conducted by Krista Robson (Research Ethics Board), Michelle Edwards Thomson (Library Common and Research Common) and Vickie Cardinal-Widmark and Lloyd Desjarlais (Indigenous Student Services).  The project involved a scoping review of academic, government and community knowledge about the role of institutional Research Ethics Boards in advising both Indigenous and non-Indigenous academic researchers working with Indigenous individuals and communities in Central Alberta on the  OCAP®  Principles (ownership, control, access, possession).  The results of a thematic analysis of the literature were validated through a consultation process with local organizations, researchers and other college research offices. 

Major themes emerging from this project include:

  1. OCAP ® principles have not yet been significantly integrated into college or university ethics policies in Alberta
  2. Each community and group is unique, and the process of seeking both community and individual consent needs to be based on the specific protocols and requirements of the individual community with which a researcher is hoping to partner.
  3. There is a need to be flexible in how traditional ethical principles are applied and implemented in Indigenous research, and to broaden the consideration of ethical questions to long after a specific research project has concluded.
  4. To be meaningfully involved in a research project form design through dissemination, the obligations and responsibilities for the community can be extensive. As a result, resource or research fatigue can be significant challenges.

For more information on this project and its results, or to request a copy, please contact krista [dot] robson [at] rdc [dot] ab [dot] ca (Krista Robson).

ethics [at] rdc [dot] ab [dot] ca

Research Ethics Board, Chair:
Krista Robson: 403-314-2499

krista [dot] robson [at] rdc [dot] ab [dot] ca

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