Indigenous Research Ethics

Building ethical relationships and research partnerships with Indigenous communities takes time. Researchers who wish to engage in research with Indigenous peoples are encouraged to learn about the research priorities of specific communities, and design research collaboratively from the start rather than invite the community members to participate in a project that has already been shaped.

Conducting research in a good way involves reciprocity, shared decision-making, respect of Indigenous knowledge, and fulfilment of specific responsibilities towards the Indigenous communities, based on their unique needs, values, and cultures.

Ownership, Control, Access and Possession

The Indigenous research-related work of the Office of Indigenous Initiatives and Queen’s Indigenous Council follows the principles of OCAP: Ownership, Control, Access and Possession (First Nations Information Governance Centre, 2018), which reflect how First Nations data should be collected, protected, used, or shared in a way that is beneficial to Indigenous communities.

Several other Indigenous governance bodies and organizations have developed guiding documents that offer insights into ethical conduct of research in specific communities. Some examples include the Research Principles and Guidelines for Researchers Conducting Research With and/or Among Mi’kmaw People (Mi’kmaw Ethics Watch, 2000), the USAI Research Framework (Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres, 2012), the Principles of Ethical Métis Research (National Aboriginal Health Organization, 2011) and the National Inuit Strategy on Research (Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, 2018).

“Indigenous Community Research Partnerships” is a useful training resource, developed by a team of Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars, to provide guidance on how to conduct research that reflects, advances, and meets expectations for ethical, collaborative, and culturally supportive engagement with Inuit, Métis and First Nations individuals and communities.

[illustration by Portia Chapman of Peace]

Aurora Research Institute. (2011). Doing Research in the Northwest Territories - A Guide for Researchers [PDF, 6.2MB]

Ball, J., & Janyst P. (2008). Enacting research ethics in partnerships with indigenous communities in Canada: "Do it in a good way". Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics, 3(2), 33-51. 

Bull, J., Shea, J., Beazley, K., & Shaw, K. (2019).The Naalak Gathering: A regional dialogue on Indigenous research governance summary report [PDF, 3.6MB]

Canadian Institutes of Health Research. (2013). CIHR Guidelines for Health Research Involving Aboriginal People (2007-2010).

Carleton University Institute on the Ethics of Research with Indigenous Peoples (CUIERIP).

Castellano, M. B. (2004). Ethics of Aboriginal research. Journal of Aboriginal Health 1(1), 98-114.

Castleden, H., Morgan, V., & Lamb, C. (2012). “I spent the first year drinking tea”: Exploring Canadian university researchers’ perspectives on community-based participatory research involving Indigenous peoples. Canadian Geographer / Le Géographe Canadien, 56(2), 160–179. 

CORE Tutorial Module 9: Research Involving First Nations, Inuit & Métis Peoples of Canada

First Nations Information Governance Centre. (2018). OCAP: Ownership, Control, Access and Possession.

Government of Canada. (2018). Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans – TCPS 2, Chapter 9, Research Involving the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples of Canada.

Health Research Council of New Zealand (2010). Guidelines for Researchers on Health Research Involving Māori [PDF, 3.2MB]

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. (2018). National Inuit Strategy on Research.

Mi’kmaw Ethics Watch. (2000). Research Principles and Guidelines for Researchers Conducting Research With and/or Among Mi’kmaw People [PDF, 0.1MB]

National Aboriginal Health Organization. (2011). Principles of Ethical Métis Research [PDF, 0.7MB]

National Health and Medical Research Council. (2018). Ethical Conduct in Research with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and Communities: Guidelines for Researchers and Stakeholders.

Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres. (2012). The USAI Research Framework [PDF, 6.7MB]