The First Peoples Working Group (FPWG)’s initiative to draft guidelines for the Institut nordique du Québec is in keeping with ongoing efforts to decolonize research. Since the 1960s, Indigenous Peoples worldwide have been calling for the protection of their intellectual property rights and for researchers to adopt practices that incorporate a greater appreciation for ethics. For over 20 years, Indigenous initiatives in Canada have emerged in response to research needs expressed by Indigenous Peoples. This movement came about in the wake of the publication of the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples report, which includes a section on research principles.
In Canada, major advances have been made to lay the groundwork so that scientific research is governed by research protocols, guidelines, agreements, accords, and respectful practices. The mission FPWG is working to fulfill is closely tied to this movement. It also reflects one of the goals of Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, namely, to support and promote research by, for, and with Aboriginal Peoples. By drafting these guidelines, FPWG seeks to ensure that research in the North is conducted in a manner that is both respectful of Indigenous Peoples and of benefit to them.
These guidelines are also part of a broader movement to democratize, among other things, research, education, and training in which the participation of Indigenous Peoples is essential. Indigenous Peoples must not only be consulted during the various stages of research; they must also be able to take ownership of the research, in order to ensure the activities are mindful of the territory. As noted by Schnarch in his work on research principles, “By regaining control of institutions and processes that impact them, communities build hope for a healthy future”.
In the view of FPWG members, it is essential that Indigenous Peoples in the North be not only consulted during research, but that they also be involved in discussions and decision making prior to such research. Their knowledge must be sufficiently taken into consideration by researchers and students. Indigenous Peoples have centuries-old knowledge, and, depending on the type of knowledge in question, are open to sharing it through fair and equitable accords and agreements that ensure the protection of their unique heritage of knowledge. However, as they have pointed out, this knowledge belongs to them, as do decisions regarding which knowledge they choose to share and how it will be shared.
The research guidelines presented herein are aimed at researchers and students associated with the INQ who are likely to work north of the 49th parallel, in Northern Quebec. This document can also serve as a good practices guide for any researcher interested in the North, in Canada and elsewhere. In other words, it is a reference document for northern research that constitutes one of the many research tools available for consultation.
Prior to the drafting of this discussion paper, a non-exhaustive review was conducted of the literature dealing with Indigenous and Northern research, and an in-depth analysis was done on the documents produced by various Indigenous bodies.
For the sake of consistency with the principles of co-construction of knowledge with Indigenous Peoples, a draft of this paper was presented at the Forum on Research Needs in the North organized by the FPWG in March 2017. The forum provided an opportunity to consult Indigenous Peoples concerned and to validate the content of the guidelines. The discussion paper was also submitted for consultation online. The final version of the paper is available in English and French.
The complete downloadable version of the research guidelines is available below. This version contains all the information presented in the website, as well as bibliographical references and appendices offering complementary information.