Section 3: Ethical Processes

Incorporating Protocols and Meeting Expectations

Protocols for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities are unique to each community. While there may be some similarities in practices, it is important to learn about the protocols of the community you will be working with on your research project.

While many communities have participated in research projects previously, and some communities have developed their own research protocols, others may not have engaged with post-secondary institutions or other organizations on research projects and may not have formal written protocols directly related to research. Researchers need to talk with community leaders about the community’s experience with research and what guidelines are in place. You will need to ensure you can adhere to existing community protocols and practices or work closely with community representatives to develop protocols as part of reaching a formal, written agreement prior to commencing research activities.

Indigenous communities have been researched over and over again, and more often than not this has occurred without consultation or permission. Some Indigenous communities may be distrustful of researchers, and you may have to learn about their past experiences. Sit quietly and listen; do not defend or explain. Make it clear you are there to hear the community’s voice, and then make respectful inquiries about how ­– if you get their permission

Asking for permission is a vital component of the process, and you may be required to ask for permission at various levels. Seek support and advice as you move along the permissions processes. As you move through the permissions process, recognize the following:

  • The community is the expert and will guide the researcher in the process of obtaining and understanding why permission is required and how to proceed respectfully and responsibly.
  • Permission is a major component of community consultation.
  • The protocol of permission ensures mutual agreement, which means that both parties are clear in their understanding of the research project; in other words, it is the action of “good manners.”
  • Establishing honest and respectful relationships lays the foundation for seeking and receiving permission.
  • Before beginning any research project, researchers should:
    • Examine community benefits and consider how the community will benefit from the study
    • Understand the cultural and social needs of the community
    • Pay attention to the role of political leadership
    • Confirm that the research is a partnership
    • Understand that collaboration is a reciprocal process
    • Confirm that the research is owned by the community

Building a research agreement with a community engagement toolkit

As you work through this guide, you will begin to realize that there needs to be a conversation and agreement on what you can use in your research to strengthen both the data gathering and analysis. In British Columbia, post- secondary institutions are engaged in and supportive of educational partnerships with Indigenous institutes and educational organizations. A toolkit developed in 2011 provides a way for institutions to engage and accommodate learning partnerships.

The Post-Secondary Education Partnership Agreement Toolkit [PDF] was jointly developed by the Indigenous Adult and Higher Learning Association, the University of Victoria, and the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology. Part 1 provides situational information and history. Part 2 and Appendix 3 have information and procedures that can aid researchers in building a responsible, ethical, reciprocal, and relevant agreement.



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Pulling Together: A Guide for Researchers, Hiłḵ̓ala Copyright © 2021 by Dianne Biin; Deborah Canada; John Chenoweth; and Lou-ann Neel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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