Memorial's new requirement for consent for Indigenous research

This FAQ is a living document and will be updated.

Memorial is undergoing consultations on a planned requirement for Indigenous consent on Indigenous research. To learn more, please email

Q: What are the main proposed components of the new requirement for Indigenous consent on Indigenous research?
The new requirement’s key feature is that consent from Indigenous Nations, governing bodies, and/or groups will be required at the proposal stage of research. This enables the ability for Indigenous groups to self-determine research topics, questions, and priorities, which is key to enacting sovereignty (see ITK 2018 as an example); the ability for Indigenous groups to articulate research protocols that are important to them; and is part of enacting the important role of universities and researchers in reconciliation for past and ongoing harms that have been caused by research to Indigenous groups (see Smith 2013 and Tuck & Yang 2014 for details).

The type of consent required is collective rather than individual. Consent is still required from individuals when research involves human subjects, which continues to be covered by Memorial's Interdisciplinary Committee on Ethics in Human Research (ICEHR). The new requirement focuses on collective consent from Indigenous Nations, governing bodies, and/or groups, depending on what group is appropriate for the research.

The scope of research that the proposal covers is ideally all research. Self-determination is not a concept that applies to some forms of research but not others. The requirement will certainly apply to all forms of primary (new) data collection. Consultations are attending to issues of capacity (for both Memorial and Indigenous groups), infrastructure, precedent, and existing conversations about consent and ethics from a range of Indigenous thinkers to understand whether and how this requirement will impact secondary data use, publicly available data, archival data, and other forms of research data, broadly defined.

Q: What is different about the new requirement compared to how we already do research? Don’t we already need consent and permissions?
Yes, many Indigenous governing bodies and groups, as well as Health Research Ethics Boards (HREBs) and other ethics boards already require collective consent for research. Moreover, in the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (Article 9.2) requires consultation and consent from Indigenous groups throughout the research process. Finally, many grants and researchers already follow best practices and acquire letters of support, which is a type of consent, from Indigenous groups when they submit proposals.

The main difference is that Memorial is requiring this collective consent of all researchers, that it is required at the proposal stage, and it may also impact types of data that does not currently fall under some of these existing areas.

Q: What stage is the process at now?
We have completed initial consultations to help us shape the policy on consent for Indigenous research. Thank you to everyone who attended sessions, wrote letters, and provided valuable input. The Vice-President (Research) team is now working to craft a draft policy, which will require another round of consultations as per Memorial University’s policy on Development, Approval and Administration of University Policies.

We anticipate this draft will begin circulation and consultation in the spring of 2019, and that best practices for research will be posted by July 1, 2019, ahead of the completed policy.



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