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J Empir Res Hum Res Ethics. 2015 Oct;10(4):368-79. doi: 10.1177/1556264615599687. Epub 2015 Aug 25.

Risk and Representation in Research Ethics: The NunatuKavut Experience.

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Memorial University, St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
NunatuKavut Community Council, Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.


This article examines Canadian policy governing the ethics of research involving Indigenous communities. Academics and community members collaborated in research to examine how best to apply the Tri-Council Policy Statement guidelines in a community with complex and multiple political and cultural jurisdictions. We examined issues of NunatuKavut (Southern Inuit) authority and representation in relation to governance of research in a context where community identity is complex and shifting, and new provincial legislation mandates centralized ethics review. We describe the politics of risk--the ways in which collective identity and research risks are co-constructed. Our case study illustrates that collective consent to research must emphasize shifting identity construction in relation to the particular risks and benefits invoked by the research question, to ascertain with which groups or individuals the negotiation of risk should take place in the first place. We conclude by describing a necessary re-imagining of policy governing research ethics involving Indigenous communities.


Aboriginal peoples; Tri-Council Policy Statement; decolonizing methodologies; policy analysis; research ethics

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