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Update on PRE’s Aboriginal Research Ethics Initiative (AREI) - August 2009

Revisions to the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS) are in progress, including ongoing consultations on Chapter 9: Research Involving Aboriginal Peoples

Drafting Chapter 9
In December 2008, the Panel on Research Ethics released a major new draft of the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS) including a new chapter on research involving Aboriginal Peoples (Chapter 9). Drafting Chapter 9 was guided by discussions and recommendations received through the Panel’s Aboriginal Research Ethics Initiative (AREI). AREI’s Guiding Consortium includes representatives of five national Aboriginal organizations whose regional bodies carry responsibility for reviewing research and implementing ethics codes. AREI was further assisted by an expert technical advisory committee, made up of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal researchers who work mainly with Aboriginal peoples. Chapter 9 also considered the results of the extensive consultations previously conducted by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and its Institute on Aboriginal Peoples’ Health (IAPH) in the preparation of the CIHR Guidelines for Health Research Involving Aboriginal People (2007).

Feedback Received
For seven months following its release, the draft TCPS was available for public comment and the Panel toured the country to receive feedback. The Panel is now in the process of considering commentary from 58 national and regional meetings including focus groups dedicated to Aboriginal research and over 220 written submissions (many of them from researchers engaged in community partnerships). Release of a revised version of the draft second edition of the TCPS for a further public comment period of 60 days is scheduled for December 2009 with a view to finalizing recommendations to the three federal research Agencies in the spring of 2010.

Harmonization Efforts
Many in the research community were pleased to see a chapter devoted to research involving Aboriginal Peoples. A concern often heard, however, was how Chapter 9 would work with the CIHR Guidelines. In order to clarify the areas of convergence and to resolve the differences between the two documents, the Panel has established a Harmonization Committee with representatives from the three research Agencies, including representatives from CIHR’s Ethics Office and Institute of Aboriginal Peoples’ Health (IAPH). This committee is currently working toward achieving harmonization between the two documents.

Additional Time to Comment
In early fall, the Panel plans to release a revised version of Chapter 9, reflecting the work of the Harmonization Committee as well as comments received from public consultations. This release of Chapter 9 in advance of the December release of the full revised draft of the TCPS, will allow additional time for comment , as requested by a number of individuals and groups in the Aboriginal community. During this time, national Aboriginal organizations will also be consulting with their own constituencies regarding the chapter. It is hoped that this extended comment period of up to four months will allow the TCPS to adequately reflect the views of Aboriginal people and those who conduct research with them.

On a final note, until the adoption of a revised TCPS, the 1998 version is operative. While health research involving Aboriginal people and funded by CIHR is now covered by the CIHR guidelines, the lack of an overarching policy, which is adapted to the realities of social sciences, humanities, natural sciences and engineering research, and which recognizes and responds to Aboriginal community ethics codes, remains an urgent concern in the research community.

Marlene Brant Castellano
Chair, Aboriginal Research Ethics Initiative
Interagency Advisory Panel on Research

Norman Frohlich
Interagency Advisory Panel on Research

Membership of Guiding Consortium

Assembly of First Nations (AFN)
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK)
Métis National Council (MNC)
Congress of Aboriginal People (CAP)
Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC)
Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC)
Health Canada (HC)
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC)
Statistics Canada (StatCan)

Membership of PRE-Technical Advisory Committee on Aboriginal Research

Bannister, Kelly, Director, POLIS project on Ecological Governance, Law and Environmental Studies, University of Victoria (British Columbia)
Brant Castellano, Marlene, Professor Emeritus, Trent University, Chair of PRE-TACAR
Desbiens, Caroline, Assistant Professor, Canada Chair, Historical Geography of the North; Department of Geography, Université Laval (Québec)
Elias, Brenda, Assoc. Director, Manitoba First Nations Center for Aboriginal Health Research, University of Manitoba (Manitoba)
Ermine, Willie, Ethicist/Researcher, Indigenous Peoples’ Health Research Centre, First Nations University of Canada (Saskatchewan)
Grey, Minnie, Chief Negotiator for Nunavik Self-Government, Makivik Corporation (Québec)
Jovel, Eduardo, Director of the UBC Institute for Aboriginal Health, University of British-Columbia (British Columbia)
Maaka, Roger, formerly Professor & Head of the Native Studies Department, University of Saskatchewan (Saskatchewan)
Palys, Ted, Criminology, Simon Fraser University (British Columbia) & Member of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Ethics Special Working Committee, Ex Officio
Valaskakis, Gail, the late Director of Research, Aboriginal Health Foundation (Ontario)