New autonomous ethics board a first for non-Indigenous post-secondary institutions in Canada
TORONTO, March 22, 2023 - York University will launch an autonomous Indigenous Research Ethics Board (IREB) in July, believed to be a first for non-Indigenous post-secondary institutions in Canada, to further work in Indigenizing research and to ensure Indigenous Peoples have a greater say in proposed research projects.
“There needs to be Indigenous voices and Indigenous Peoples who have a say and control over all aspects of the approval process and not just a consultative piece to it,” says Faculty of Health Associate Professor Sean Hillier, a Mi’kmaw scholar, co-chair of the Indigenous Council at York and who led the team that established the IREB. “What makes this a fully autonomous Indigenous Research Ethics Board is that we don’t report to anybody except the University’s Senate."
Although York’s Human Participants Review Committee (HPRC) helps ensure the safety and health of Indigenous research participants, there was a greater need for Indigenous-specific knowledges and leadership to ensure appropriate sensitivity to cultural and community rights, as well as roles and responsibilities across any research projects, says Hillier.
The IREB is autonomous from the existing ethics committee. “What makes the IREB different is we’re not meant to be somewhere where you just fill in an ethics application, send it in and it gets approved or denied,” he says. “This is meant to be a process that engages scholars from the moment that they start thinking of research, speaking to them about the ethics and the implications of the work.”
The IREB will be made up of a council that will include five University faculty members, one undergraduate and graduate students – all representative of a diversity of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples and gender identities. It will also include three external elders and/or knowledge keepers, as well as three non-University affiliated Indigenous community representatives.
“Establishing a fully autonomous IREB reflects the kind of relationship Indigenous communities want with universities,” says Faculty of Education Professor Susan Dion, York’s associate vice-president, Indigenous initiatives. “Recognizing the rights of Indigenous communities to steward knowledge production, it places the responsibility for ethical knowledge creation in the minds and hearts of Indigenous communities, which is where it must be. It is a significant move in returning to Indigenous people agency, authority, and sovereignty in knowledge production on this land.”