Research Involving Aboriginal Peoples

Procedure Number: 
Policy Number: 
Vice-President, Academic
Vice President, Academic
August 17, 2010
Last Amended: 
September 10, 2014
September 10, 2016
Procedure Statement: 

NOTE:  This procedure is consistent with the Tri-Council Policy Statement TCPS2 Chapter 9, Research Involving the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples of Canada.

Research, which involves Aboriginal communities or individuals, will follow the principles, standards and procedures within the Ethics Policy and related procedures. However, in accordance with the Tri Council Policy Statement for Ethical Conduct for Researcher Involving Human Participants (Tri-Policy Council), additional requirements are needed to ensure the rights and interests of the Aboriginal community as a whole are respected, according to four guiding principles:

  1. Respect for local First Nation traditions and protocols;
  2. Transparency in all negotiations;
  3. Community involvement; and
  4. Capacity-building and community safety.

Researchers and the Research Ethics Board (REB) will consider whether application of the core principles of the Tri Council Policy Statement for Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Human Participants (Tri-Council Policy) and these procedures require interpretation or adaptation in the context of proposed research involving Aboriginal participants, to demonstrate respect for Aboriginal rights and cultural heritage, the integrity of Indigenous knowledge systems, and the diversity among and within Aboriginal communities. The Aboriginal Education Advisory Council may be consulted to assist in this consideration. The requirement for interpretation or adaptation may apply to the following situations:

  1. Research is conducted on a defined traditional Aboriginal territory;
  2. The analysis of the research data will use data involving Aboriginal identity or membership in an Aboriginal community as a variable;
  3. The research involves cultural property, Indigenous knowledge, or input from an Aboriginal community;
  4. There is a reasonable expectation that the research population will include a significant number of Aboriginal individuals;
  5. Recruitment criteria include Aboriginal identity as a factor for the entire study or for a subgroup in the study;
  6. The research question is concerned with Aboriginality or membership in a formal or informal Aboriginal community, or with characteristics of the community;
  7. The interpretation of the research results will refer to Aboriginal peoples, language, history or culture.

In research proposals involving one or more Aboriginal communities or a significant number of Aboriginal participants, researchers will inform the REB of how they have engaged or intend to engage the community in approving, advising on or managing the project (See for example Appendix A). The nature and extent of community engagement should be appropriate to the type of community and proportionate to the level of Aboriginal involvement in the research.

Research that is undertaken with Aboriginal communities will:

  1. Respect and take into consideration the culture, traditions and knowledge of the Aboriginal community;
  2. Conceptualize and conduct research with the Aboriginal community as a partnership;
  3. Consult members of the community who have relevant expertise, throughout the duration of the research;
  4. Involve the community within the design of the project, including methodology;
  5. Examine how the research may be shaped to address the needs and concerns of the community;
  6. Ensure that the emphasis of the research, and the ways chosen to conduct the research, respect the viewpoints of different segments of the community in question;
  7. Provide the community with information with respect to the following:

a.  the protection of the Aboriginal community’s cultural estate and other property;

 b.  the availability of a preliminary report for comment;

 c.  the potential employment by researchers of members of the community appropriate and without prejudice;

d.  the willingness of researchers to cooperate with community institutions; and

e.  the willingness of researchers to deposit date, working papers and related materials in an agreed-upon repository;

      8.    Ensure that financial arrangements are equitable and transparent;

      9.    Acknowledge in the publication of the research results the various viewpoints of the community on the topics researched;

      10.  Afford the community the opportunity to reach and respond to the research findings before the completion of the final report, in the final report or even in all relevant publications and to provide, free of charge, copies of the report to the subject community; and

      11.  Highlight any disagreement between the Aboriginal community and the researcher must be accurately reported within the interpretation of the data in the research reports or publications. If necessary, third-party mediation will be provided.



Appendix A


In the following examples, List A illustrates degrees of Aboriginal involvement in a variety of research projects and List B gives examples of community engagement proportionate to the level of Aboriginal involvement in each type of project cited.

List A: Examples of Aboriginal Involvement

  1. Research directly involving a defined Aboriginal community with formal leadership. Example: a project that examines the incidence of diabetes in Pond Inlet.
  2. Research involving Aboriginal people who comprise a sizable proportion of the study or community and where Aboriginal-specific conclusions are intended. Example: a comparative study of access to public housing in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.
  3. Research involving Aboriginal people who are part of a larger community (regardless of their proportion) that is the subject of research, and where Aboriginal-specific conclusions are anticipated. Example: a study of student retention in high schools in the Sault Ste. Marie district of Ontario.
  4. Research involving Aboriginal people who comprise a sizeable proportion of the larger community that is the subject of research even if no Aboriginal-specific conclusions will be made. Example: research on employment development programs serving residents of Winnipeg’s inner city.
  5. Research that may incidentally involve a small proportion of Aboriginal individuals but is not intended to single out or describe characteristics of Aboriginal people in the study. Example: a study of the effectiveness of therapies to control high blood pressure in a sample of hospital out-patients.
  6. Natural sciences research on First Nation or Inuit territories where Aboriginal people may act as co-investigators or benefit from findings. Example: research on contaminants in sources of country food in northern Quebec.
  7. Research that involves the collection and analysis of tissue samples from animals and does not involve human participants does not require REB review under provisions of this procedure. Inuit and First Nations protocols may, nevertheless, require regional and local permission and reporting of findings to communities on whose traditional territories the research takes place and who may benefit from the research.

List B: Examples of Proportionate Community Engagement

  1. Permission of the land claims organization that carries authority to approve research in Nunavut is required. Agreement of the hamlet council in Pond Inlet will normally be a condition of approval. The local health committee may co-manage the project.
  2. The tribal council representing local First Nation communities may partner with the Prince Albert city council to sponsor, implement and use the results of the housing study.
  3. A committee to advise the District Board of Education and the researchers conducting the retention study may be convened, representing First Nations, Métis organizations and urban Aboriginal people whose children are affected.
  4. Aboriginal service agencies may be engaged to help recruit Aboriginal participants and secure community representation on an oversight committee, to ensure cultural sensitivity in collecting and interpreting data on employment program impacts.

If Aboriginal individuals self-identify during the collection of primary data in the blood pressure study, researchers should inquire whether culturally appropriate assistance is desired to interpret or support compliance with protocols. Since Aboriginal participation is incidental rather than scheduled, informing the REB is not required. However, it should be noted that including markers of Aboriginal identity in data may reveal anomalies that warrant further, more targeted, research.

Last updated June 23, 2015