Dear Sir or Madam,
You may have noticed that our week highlighting issues affecting Indigenous people in Canada has been entirely silent in one regard. We have not interviewed anyone who identifies as Indigenous. This is not because we had no desire to do so, but because we were not permitted to.
The Research Ethics Office (REO) at the University of Alberta maintains strict control over anything that can be deemed a “research project” under the University's banner. As with many things bureaucratic, they mostly do a good job. But perhaps they do too much of it. The REO policy on “Research Involving Aboriginal Populations” reads as follows:
“Research involving Aboriginal peoples in Canada has historically been defined and carried out primarily by non-Aboriginal researchers. The approaches used have not generally reflected Aboriginal worldviews, and the research has not necessarily benefited Aboriginal peoples or communities. Consequently, research with Aboriginal peoples must now involve community engagement to ensure that Aboriginal peoples have a role in the research that affects them.”1
We humbly submit that this overly paternalistic REO policy, when applied too broadly, actually causes the exact opposite effect than intended. The Dominion is not a “research project”, but a “media project”. Despite this, we are designated a as a research project when we intend to interview people, a.k.a. “human subjects”. Our stated purpose is to make information regarding legal issues more accessible to a wider range of people. We have been very fortunate to have been given this platform. It is our sincere regret that we are unable to share it with a segment of the population whose stories desperately need to be heard. For this, we apologize.
In addition, we offer two suggestions to help alleviate this problem:
First, we ask those of you that share our position to write to the Research Ethics Office. Let them know that you feel that it is not appropriate for them to be erecting barriers that serve to silence Aboriginal people by denying them access to platforms that will allow them to tell their stories.
Secondly, attend presentations and events hosted by Indigenous groups and speakers. Listen to their stories. They have been ignored for far too long.
1 University of Alberta, “Research on Aboriginal Populations” (2016), online: <www.reo.ualberta.ca/en/Human-Research-Ethics/Research-with-Aboriginal-Populations.aspx>