July 2018Download PDF Version
Indspire’s Global Ethics Policy was developed to communicate policies, guidelines and practices relevant to research ethics review, ethical conduct in research, and evaluation and data collection involving Indigenous peoples. It is a document that is complementary to the First Nations Governance Centre’s (FNGC) Ownership, Control Assess, and Possession (OCAP) and Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans.
The policies, practices and guidelines discussed in this policy are to be used as guiding documents, together with OCAP and TCPS and other Indigenous research practices, for individuals to consult when planning, designing and executing programs, projects and research. Through the use of this policy, it is expected that individuals will plan and conduct studies that incorporate best practices with respect to Indigenous participation As regional and national policies change, this policy will evolve as well.
Indspire contracts individuals which, in this policy, refers to contractors, staff, program developers and/or researchers who may be Indigenous or non-Indigenous. They conduct research or undertake various types of projects on behalf of Indspire. Therefore, it is critical to provide guidelines that are clear, relevant, and useful for individuals involved as well as reflective of Indspire’s foundational guiding principles for Indigenous educational practices (in this policy educational practices includes any research, program and/or projects).
The intention for this document is to underscore ethical guidelines for individuals to ensure, to the extent possible, ethical guidelines on research and program/project development involving Aboriginal/Indigenous peoples are followed. The term ‘Indigenous’ is used in this document to include Aboriginal people which is defined as First Nations, Métis, Inuit and non-Status Indians – See the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS2 2014), Chapter 9, P. 111 for definitions and contexts regarding Aboriginal peoples.
An important aspect of Indspire’s Code of Ethics regarding respectful engagement in research endeavours is consideration of the historic-current lives of Indigenous peoples in Canada. As Chapter 9 of the TCPS indicates; Aboriginal peoples of Canada have unique status and existing Aboriginal and treaty rights. Further, the acknowledgement and recognition of the diverse lived realities of Indigenous peoples must be understood as expressed in various ways: juxtaposed lives against Western frameworks, integrated Western – Indigenous lifeways, bicultural and/or multicultural lives, expressing Indigenous traditions within communities, expressing Indigenous traditions within mainstream educational institutions, and/or organizations, and many more. Generalizing or pan-Indigenous statements or approaches do not reflect the diversity of Indigenous People and therefore need to be avoided by individuals conducting educational practices. Researchers must acknowledge these multiple realities and understanding the Indigenous contexts within those realities (See Article 9.2, Tri-Council Policy Statement for a deeper discussion on this topic).
Individuals must have the capacity to identify the various components that reflect Canadian mainstream perspectives and those that are reflective of Indigenous contexts of Indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge, cultural heritages, or unique characteristics and examine ways that these might be integrated.
The following section outlines the definitions used throughout the document.
1.1 Indigenous Knowledge: a term used to represent the broad spectrum of “ways of knowing” and understanding by Indigenous peoples, primarily as it is linked to well-established cultural practices.
1.2 Indigenous achievement: the successes and accomplishments of First Nations (Status and Non-Status), Inuit, and Métis peoples. While achievement can be subjective and material, it can also be much broader and specific to each student and so it should not be limited to grades or graduation.
1.3 Indigenous education (formal and informal): Formal Indigenous education takes place in school environments and is academic and institutional. Informal Indigenous education takes place in the family, home, community, ceremony, etc.
1.4 Data or statistics: the information generated from either asking a question or from all those participating in a program (for example through application to BBF). Statistics are the resulting information generated by analyzing data (i.e. % of male vs female).
1.5 Research: using quantitative and/or qualitative methodologies that identify a research questions, or defining a hypothesis, testing, and retesting to ensure validity of findings.
1.6 Researcher: a person who facilitates the research process and engages research participants and data.
1.7 Collaboration: networking, liaising, and partnering between groups of individuals, collectives, institutions, etc. Working with others to achieve more than what could be achieved alone.
1.8 Community-based: a process of working that is grounded in the community of learners within First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities; adhering and respecting the values of the community and translating this into how research is conducted.
1.9 Ethical standards: Standards that are established to reflect the values and interests of Indspire’s constituents, Indigenous communities and our partners. Indspire is a proponent of community research Ethics Protocols and the Tri-Council’s Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans.
1.10 Knowledge mobilization: the publication, dissemination, and promotion of our research findings to key stakeholders.
1.11 Learning organization: An organization that instills and supports on-going Indigenous learning, gathering feedback and measuring success.
Indspire has developed foundational guiding principles that should be heeded to adapt to and define the Indigenous nature of their research projects. The Indspire foundational guiding principles for Indigenous educational practice are based on opinions from two national consultations, and reflect the values of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:
Principle 1: Indigenous peoples have the right to retain shared responsibility for the education and well-being of their children.
Principle 2: As an expression of respect, reciprocity and reconciliation, strengthened partnerships between Indigenous peoples, governments (federal, provincial and territorial) and public institutions are the basis of working relationships, implicit in treaties, agreements and other constructive agreements with Indigenous peoples.
Principle 3: Indigenous Knowledges (ways of being, knowing, valuing and doing), which convey our responsibilities and relationships to all life is a valued and foundational aspect of the learning program for all children and youth.
Principle 4: Cultural/language communities have the right to define success for their own well-being.
Principle 5: Learning is viewed as lifelong, holistic, and experiential, which is rooted in language and culture, is place-based, spiritually oriented, communal and open to multiple ways of knowing the world.
Principle 6: Programs, schools and systems are responsive to both the aspirations and needs of Indigenous peoples.
Principle 7: Recognizing the legacy of the colonial histories of Indigenous peoples, education is also a process of decolonization, which seeks to strengthen, enhance & strengthen and embrace Indigenous Knowledge and experience through various strategies including but not limited to anti-racist, anti-oppressive pedagogies and Indigenous pedagogies.
3.0 Understanding the Ethical Conduct for Research
and/or Evaluation and Data Collection Involving International Indigenous Contexts
Historical ‘colonizing’ Western research processes involving Indigenous peoples have been challenged by Indigenous Maori scholar Smith (1999) in her ground breaking work ‘Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples’. In response to this concern, Smith offers readers and researchers and in particular Indigenous peoples who carry out their own research that research processes be reflective of reclaiming control over Indigenous ways of knowing and being. In her work she highlights the issues that Indigenous peoples have faced in research processes conducted through the lenses of Western frameworks not respectful to Indigenous traditions, knowledges, languages, cultural diversities and processes. Smith offers an approach she coined ‘decolonizing methodologies’. Ethics guidelines regarding Indigenous peoples’ experiences, processes, and lifeways needs to recognize the specificity of social and cultural contexts of Indigenous peoples, without compromising the diversity of cultures, languages, and experiences.
Other important documents that can help individuals become informed and develop culturally relevant and Indigenous focused research can be located at the global level where various international bodies such as United Nations developed conventions/declarations that aspire to support Indigenous peoples’ needs and aspirations. For example, The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Declaration) establishes, in Article 31, that Indigenous peoples ‘have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their intellectual property over their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expressions.’
Article 14 states:
The purpose of this document is to assist staff, contractors and individuals to draw from these documents, other Indigenous research protocol documents developed within Indigenous networks and/or communities, (and those developed by Indspire research protocols) to integrate these ideas to support their research efforts in developing innovative, creative, culturally responsive Indigenous education initiatives to the degree that their situations allows and resources are found. Indspire requires that these ethical and respectful guidelines be considered for any Indspire educational practice.
While Indspire’s Global Ethics Policy includes all educational practices, the next section focusses specifically on Indspire’s’ research projects. It is recommended that all Indspire research staff and/or contractors adhere to the following section.
4.0 Relevance Canadian Tri-Council Policy Statement to Indspire Research
Canada’s research Tri-Council ‘Agencies’, composed of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), have developed policies that “promote research that is conducted according to the highest ethical standards” (Tri-Council Policy Statement (PCPS2 2014), P. 3). Although Indspire research is not funded through these research councils it is the hope of the ‘Agencies’ “…that this policy will continue to serve as a model and guide for the ethical conduct of research involving humans” (P. 4). The Tri-Council Policy Statement notes that many organizations and entities that carry out research have “…adopted, adapted and been guided by the document” (P. 4).
Therefore, Indspire is guided by the document and in particular Chapter 9, Research Involving the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples of Canada. Researchers should also look at the current documents that various Indigenous networks and communities might have within their policy statements. Indspire leadership will request at minimum, their researchers review FNGC OCAP and Chapter 9 of the Tri-Council Policy Statement and familiarize themselves with the entire document to ensure their research is guided by ethical considerations. In addition, since Indspire has conducted consultations about foundational guiding principles, researchers need to integrate these principles into their research, from planning to final reporting. The guiding principles are previously listed (page 6) in this document.
Some highlights of the TCPS2 2014 (including Chapter 9) on Research Involving the First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada relevant to Indspire’s research and projects include:
5.0 Application of Ethical Conduct to Indspire Research
As the preceding sections show established rationale and guidelines exist for researchers to ground their research work to ensure that the high quality of standards are applied and focused within the context of Indigenous peoples to establish that “…ethical space for dialogue on common interests and points of difference between researchers and Aboriginal communities engaged in research” (TCPS2 2014, P. 109). Indspire has developed a set of guidelines that can be applied to educational practices, as outlined here in point form.
The above ethical policy guidelines apply to all aspects of educational practices whether conducted directly by Indspire, or by individuals hired by Indspire for various projects. As such, all individuals will sign an acknowledgement of having read this policy and Chapter 9 of the Canadian Tri-Council Policy Statement on Research Involving Humans before the project starts.
Before a research project is started, Indspire will ensure that:
All researchers must make certain that the proper consent, confidentiality, and ethical protocol forms are completed and applicably signed before commencing the study. The signed ethics forms are considered to be deliverables for those researchers on contract.
It is the responsibility of the researcher to inform the participants in writing about the project details (data collection methods/processes and how the information will be used), acknowledging an appreciation for participating, and informing participants about consent protocol methods so that participants can choose which is method is best suited to confirm their willingness to participate.
The following information should be included in the consent forms:
There are two methods of consent available to participants: Signed and Non-Signed.
To ensure informed signed consent, the researcher will take the time to read and review the information on the form carefully with the participant to ensure they understand any accompanying information before proceeding.
The participant’s signature on the form indicates that they have understood to their own satisfaction the information regarding participation in the research project and agree to participate as a subject. In no way does this waive their legal rights nor release the researchers, sponsors, or involved institutions from their legal and professional responsibilities. The participant is free to withdraw from the study at any time, and/or refrain from answering any questions they prefer to omit, without prejudice or consequence. The continued participation of the participant should be as informed as their initial consent, freely asking for clarification or new information throughout their participation.
Non-signed type of research consent process is equivalent to a signed consent form if the participant prefers to not sign a form but still wishes to participate in the project. Relevant forms of consenting such as oral consent, field notes, a return of completed questionnaires, a verbal agreement, a handshake and/or Indigenous culturally relevant symbolic sharing such as an offering of tobacco or gifts is considered a valid form of consent. Although the participant is not obligated to sign the consent, the researcher will leave a copy of the research project information that will give the participant an idea of what the research is about and what their participation will involve. In this case, the researcher will write in a note in the consent information that the participant elected this method.
For research with persons who are unable to give valid, informed consent for reasons of age, disability, or other vulnerability, the signed consent of a substitute decision-maker should be obtained. The consent form should indicate the legal relationship by which power to consent has been delegated. In addition, the researcher shall, as much as possible, explain to such prospective subjects the research and involvement being requested, and seek their cooperation (i.e. assent) both at the outset of and throughout the project. The researcher should also remain vigilant and be prepared to discontinue the research immediately if there are any indications that continued participation is becoming distressing and/or harmful to such persons.
An Indspire Ethics Committee, composed of three members appointed by the Vice President for Education, will approve educational practices based on the project description as provided in the ethics submission protocol, letter of understanding, ethics checklist, and this policy. The Indspire Ethics Committee may also require access to research records for safety and quality assurance purposes. Concerns or complaints about an educational practice may be referred to the Ethics Committee for review and clarification.
The following documents are to be completed according to the context of the research project. These forms have been attached as appendices to the download copy of this policy at the top of this webpage:
Brant-Castellano, M. (2004). Ethics of Aboriginal Research. Journal of Aboriginal Health, 1(1), 98-114.
Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council
(NSERC)and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). (2010). Tri-
Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans. Retrieved June 15,
First Nations Ethics Guide on Research and Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge. (June, 2015). Retrieved
Assembly of First Nations. (March 2009). Ethics in First Nations Research. Assembly of First Nations,
Environmental Stewardship Unit. Retrieved from:
First Nations Information Governance Centre. (2014). Barriers and Levers for the Implementation of
OCAP. The International Indigenous Policy Journal, 5(2), 1-11.
First Nation Information Governance Centre. (2014, May 23). OCAP: Ownership, Control, Access and
Possession: The Path to First Nations Information Governance. Retrieved from
First Nations Regional Longitudinal Health Survey Code of Research Ethics. (February, 2007). Retrieved
Health Authority: Protocols & Principles for Conducting Research in an Indigenous Context. Faculty of
Human and Social Development, University of Victoria.
Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP). (1996). Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal
Peoples. Vol.1, Looking Forward, Looking Back. Ottawa, Canada Communications Group.
Smith, L. (1999). Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. Zed Books Ltd.
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. (2007, September 13). Retrieved
 First Nations Information Government Centre. (2014); Ownership, Control, Access and Possession (OCAP)
 Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans December, 2014. Government of Canada. www.pre.ethics.gc.ca
 IBID 2
 Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans. Retrieved June 15, 2015 from www.pre.ethics.gc.ca/pdf/eng/tcps2/TCPS_2_FINAL_Web.pdf
 IBID 2
 Smith, L. (1999). Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. Zed Books Ltd.
 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/DRIPS_en.pdf
 Assembly of First Nations, Assemblée des Premières Nations. (March 2009). Ethics in First Nations Research. Environmental Stewardship Unit & First Nations Information Government Centre
 IBID 2
 IBID 2
 Ownership, Control, Access and Possession (OCAP): The Path to First Nations Information Governance. May 23, 2014. First Nations Information Governance Centre