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OSSU’s Aboriginal Working Group

By Wayne Warry, PhD
Co-Chair, Aboriginal Working Group

As distinct cultures within the Canadian mosaic, Aboriginal peoples—the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples of Canada—have the right to own, protect and control how information about them, including health information gathered through or for health research, is used.

In fact, jurisdiction over this information as it pertains to First Nations Peoples is enshrined in The First Nations Principles of OCAP™ (ownership, control, access and possession).

Research involving Canada’s Aboriginal peoples is governed by the guidelines and principles set out in the Tri-Council’s (CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC) Policy Statement (2014). The policy outlines how research—including health research—with Aboriginals is be conducted to ensure that it is ethically sound and respectful of their values and ways of knowing.

While these principles and guidelines ensure that health research involving Aboriginal Peoples is truly patient-centred (to our way of thinking), they also present some unique challenges for health researchers who are interested in studying Canada’s Indigenous populations. The Aboriginal Health Working Group of the Ontario SPOR SUPPORT Unit (OSSU) is here to help investigators initiate collaborative research with Aboriginal communities and incorporate Indigenous medical knowledge and cultural traditions into the research process to ensure success.

With representation from, and expertise in, many of the different Indigenous communities in Ontario, Working Group members:

  • work with the OSSU Management Team and Working Groups to ensure that health research is conducted in accordance with the applicable guidelines and principles governing health research with Canada’s Indigenous peoples;
  • work with the OSSU Management Team to ensure that Aboriginal peoples are included in SPOR research and demonstration projects, and that Aboriginal research priorities are identified;
  • ensure that Indigenous knowledge and understandings of health care are considered in SPOR-funded research;
  • act as a resource to the OSSU Management Team and Working Groups to ensure appropriate Aboriginal community engagement and patient participation in research;
  • work with the Knowledge Translation Working Group to develop effective mechanisms for the communication of research results to Aboriginal patients, including First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities; and
  • work with the Capacity Building Working Group to ensure engagement of Aboriginal students, graduate students and Indigenous health programs in capacity building initiatives.

With their distinct determinants of health, and a higher burden of illness than the general population, the health and well being of Ontario’s Indigenous population of approximately 300,000 deserves our attention. I invite health researchers and Aboriginal peoples and their communities to contact me, or the Co-Chair of the Working Group, Jennifer Walker, if you are interested in being part of OSSU’s work. You can reach us by email at WWarry@Laurentian.ca and Jennifer.Walker@ices.on.ca.