Indigenous Research FAQs for RGCS and grant facilitators

This FAQ is a living document and will be updated.


Q: What is Memorial’s new need for consent for Indigenous research and why do we need it?
The need for having consent to conduct Indigenous research is not new, but the requirement for documentation of consent is. There are several reasons for having consent from Indigenous governing bodies for research. These include: the ability for Indigenous groups to self-determine what is being done on their Land and with their cultures, peoples, and languages, which is key to enacting sovereignty; the ability for Indigenous groups to articulate research priorities and protocols that are important to them (see ITK 2018 as an example); and in 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).

Currently, consent is already necessary for Indigenous research, as outlined in the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (Article 9.2), the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Articles 11.2, 31.1, 31.2), and Ethical Principles for the Conduct of Research in the North, and by many Indigenous ethics and permitting review boards, among other governing documents. In fact, these documents require Indigenous engagement in research, rather than merely consent, which is only one small but insufficient part of engagement.

To bring Memorial into compliance with existing requirements, we are asking for documentation (types outlined below) to ensure we are going through existing formal Indigenous ethics and permissions processes where they exist, or approximating them where they are in development, informal, or ad hoc. This is part of Memorial’s wider efforts to be part of reconciliation processes, and to be good neighbours and partners on Indigenous land.

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. (2018). National Inuit Strategy on Research. ITK.
Smith, L. T. (2013). Decolonizing methodologies: Research and Indigenous peoples. Zed Books Ltd..
Tuck, E., & Yang, K. W. (2014). R-words: Refusing research. Humanizing research: Decolonizing qualitative inquiry with youth and communities, 223-248.

Q: What dates do consent requirements come into effect and how do they impact research-in-progress?
Consent should already be obtained for all research on Indigenous people, land, language, artifacts, etc. The date where Memorial University will require evidence of this consent is July 1, 2019. On July 1, all new applications for grants, all new contracts, all grant renewals (if applicable), and all grant accounts set ups (for newly awarded grants) will require evidence of consent to proceed.
If you have already submitted a grant or contract before July 1, you should already have consent but evidence will not be required for submission. However, if that grants must be renewed or an account still has to be established on or after July 1, you will have to provide evidence of consent.
This is a slight amendment to the 2013 document on Guidelines for research involving Aboriginal communities in Newfoundland and Labrador, in that the very first step of research should be to gain consent before moving forward with research questions, grant proposals, contracts, or other formal research plans.

Q: What kind of documents can we accept to show consent/permission for grant applications and contracts?
There are a variety of ways to show consent. These include:

  • A letter showing the project has successfully passed through the Indigenous government’s or organization’s formal ethics process. There are some ethics processes that are Indigenous-lead that are not based in a government, such as via Friendship Centres for diverse urban Indigenous populations. These permissions are valid.
  • A letter on letterhead stating that the government is aware of the application and supports it going forward at this stage. This can include letters of support. Some governments will not put researchers through their formal ethics process until a grant is acquired, so for these cases a pre-ethics process letter is fine. Also, some governments do not have formal ethics processes, so a letter on letterhead saying they are aware of the research and its terms and that it may proceed is fine in these cases.
  • A signature from an Indigenous governing body employee acting in their official capacity as co-applicant, collaborator, or partner on a grant. Their signature can be part of the normal sign-off processes and/or in letter of support.
  • A contract or formal request for research that originates from an Indigenous governing body.

When in doubt, contact the AVPIR.

Q: What sort of things do I look for in a grant to ensure they are meeting proper criteria for consent?
Technically, this responsibility is up to the researcher. But here are some ways we can support those researchers:

  • Do a word search for “Indigenous,” “Aboriginal,” “First Nation,” Metis” and “Inuit.” If the grant uses these words in terms of who is engaged, hired, impacted, researched, or otherwise implicated in the grant, they should have a consent.
  • If the application only talks about “Aboriginal peoples” “Indigenous groups” or (for instance) “Inuit” or “Mi’kmaq” without mentioning specific groups from whom they can get consent, then advise the researcher to remove all such references, or focus the grant so they can get proper consent.
  • Take note of any agreements that talk about sharing data, IP, outcomes, findings, products, etc, and ensure this is reflected in MOUs and contracts with the Indigenous group(s).

Q: What do I tell researchers whose current grants don’t meet the consent requirement, but whose grants may be impacted by it in the future (either future grants, or installments, renewals, account openings or other processes where they will fall under the July 1 requirement)?
You can email the researcher the following:

“Please be aware that though this application/contract has gone through, starting July 1, 2019, all research that affects Indigenous groups will be required to submit documentation of consent from Indigenous governing bodies and/or Indigenous research permission boards. This will likely affect your grant, as any renewals, account openings, or similar processes will require documentation of consent to proceed. If you have questions, please see the Vice-President (Research) office’s frequently asked questions resources and the memo entitled, “Consent for Indigenous Research” dated December 3, 2018.”

Q: So if the researcher doesn’t have written consent, we can’t approve the grant?
We can’t. While ICEHR and Animal Care Services, for example, will allow researchers to get ethics after submission, for Indigenous groups there is no guarantee that ethics or consent will be obtained and this may mean that the research is unfeasible, as well as not meeting our obligations under Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, or the Tri-Council Policy Statement (2) Chapter 9, Research Involving the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples of Canada.
The VPR’s office will back you up in saying no. If there are any problems or abuse, send them up the line.

Q: We have a researcher with a good record of Indigenous research and pre-existing consent for similar projects. Can we use previous consent or reputation as consent?
Nope. The way consent works is that it has to be ongoing. Luckily, if a researcher already has a good reputation and pre-existing consent, then it should be easier for them to get it again.

Q: What are some good examples of indigenous-university IP agreements?
Good question. We’re on it. Stay tuned. In the meantime, one strong IP and data sharing framework that reflects both Indigenous and university values is the First Nations OCAP®
Principles
, which differentiates between which parties have ownership, control, access, and possession of data. MOUs and PI agreements can clarify which groups have rights to each of these aspects of data.

You may be interested in the Fundamentals of OCAP® course, an online course developed by FNIGC in conjunction with Algonquin College that provides a comprehensive overview of the history of OCAP® and its applications in research and information governance today. The cost for the course is $249.

Q: The instructional REB told the PI they need approval from the Indigenous community; but the Indigenous community told them they won’t look at it until I have REB approval – what do we do?
For the internal Memorial process, we need consent rather than approval for something to move through our internal system. This can mean an email or letter from the governing body saying they’d like it to go through REB first—this is consent to move forward with the project at this stage. They can also provide a Letter of Support in Principle, which will be a familiar document to Indigenous groups with REBs. Both are considered consent for an early stage of research. The PI would then get the updated approval from the community after internal REB approval. The goal if this process is that Indigenous groups are aware of research projects and that they have self-determination in how they move forward. A notice from an Indigenous governing body saying they want a particular process is their right, and we can follow that.

Q: Does the new consent requirement change anything in ROMEO?
It will. Along with ICEHR, Animal Care, and Biohazards, there will also be a check box for Indigenous research consent. This is forthcoming.

Q: Is the new consent requirement backed up by policy?
This is in progress now.

Q: I would like some more training on this. When and how does this happen?
The AVPIR is working on this. Stay tuned! It will come before July 1, 2019. If you need anything in the meantime, please email avp.research@mun.ca. Your questions are probably the same as many other grant facilitators, so please ask so it can be reflected in the training.

Contact

Research

230 Elizabeth Ave, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1B 3X9

Postal Address: P.O. Box 4200, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1C 5S7

Tel: (709) 864-8000