These Guidelines have been prepared by the Ethics Office of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), in conjunction with its Institute of Aboriginal Peoples’ Health, to assist researchers and institutions in carrying out ethical and culturally competent research involving Aboriginal people. The intent is to promote health through research that is in keeping with Aboriginal values and traditions. The Guidelines will assist in developing research partnerships that will facilitate and encourage mutually beneficial and culturally competent research. The Guidelines will also promote ethics review that enables and facilitates rather than suppresses or obstructs research. These Guidelines are applicable to researchers carrying out research to which CIHR has made a financial contribution. The reader should note that these Guidelines are not regulations nor are they meant to be of general application. Rather, they are guidelines that should be followed by anyone who carries out research involving Aboriginal people in Canada if the research is funded by CIHR. The obligation on the researcher to abide by the Guidelines is contractual, i.e. it is voluntarily assumed by the researcher in return for the funding provided by CIHR. As these guidelines primarily address the special considerations that arise when carrying out research involving Aboriginal people, researchers must also refer to, and comply with, other Tri-Council andCIHR policies, as well as any applicable legislation and, for those to whom it applies, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Other agencies of government may impose additional regulatory or other requirements.


CIHR established the Aboriginal Ethics Working Group (AEWG) in March 2004 as part of a broader national endeavour to develop research ethics guidelines for Aboriginal people. The AEWG was representative of Aboriginal interests and academic disciplines in providing advice and support for the development of the Guidelines. The AEWG met to deliberate, discuss and draft the Guidelines over the course of two years. A series of commissioned background papers and contributions from the Aboriginal Capacity and Developmental Research Environments (ACADRE) network informed the deliberations of the AEWG. It followed a hands-on, active approach to the development of the Guidelines and adopted ethical principles to guide its work.

A comprehensive, nation-wide strategy for consultation with Aboriginal communities, researchers and institutions was built on the ACADRE network. The ACADRE network is a unique university-based resource with links to academic research communities and partnerships with regional First Nation, Inuit and Métis communities. Proposals for research ethics collaboration were accepted from the ACADREcentres; each proposal was unique to the centre. Early ACADRE activities focused on work with communities to translate traditional values and ethics into guidance for health researchers; this formed the foundation for the Guidelines.

The first draft of the research ethics Guidelines was completed in May 2005. Initial vetting of the Guidelines took place through the ACADRE centres and their community partners to determine cultural appropriateness and acceptability. Then, feedback was sought from the wider academic community. Consultations and vetting throughout Aboriginal and research communities were initiated in the fall of 2005 and continued through March 2006; these sessions were conducted by the ACADRE network.

The Ethics Office along with the National Council on Ethics in Human Research conducted workshops and consultations with Aboriginal communities, researchers and members of research ethics boards to obtain feedback on the draft Guidelines. The document was electronically posted by CIHR and its partners to enable widespread access and awareness, and to solicit comments prior to final revision. Two timeline extensions for feedback were granted to accommodate the high level of interest by the Aboriginal and research communities and requests for additional workshops and consultations. This inclusive and adaptive approach to the development of the Guidelines helped achieve a workable balance on specific issues, given the multiple and diverse perspectives expressed. The Guidelines were then edited by CIHR‘s Ethics Office, in consultation with Health Canada and Justice Canada, to optimize internal consistency, and to ensure that the Guidelines reflected CIHR‘s mandate.

These Guidelines will contribute to the Tri-Council process established to revise Section 6 of the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans, which addresses research involving Aboriginal people.


Download below to read the full article:

CIHR (Canadian Institutes of Health Research)
(2007). Guidelines for health research involving aborigial people. Ottawa, Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) / Instituts de Recherché en Santé du Canada (IRSC)

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