top of page
  • Writer's pictureKevin Chang

My Steps Towards Better Understanding the Unique Nature of First Nations Data Sovereignty

Updated: Mar 9, 2022

On September 30th, 2021, Canada had its first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This day honours the lost children and the survivors of residential schools, their families and communities. As a researcher and data scientist, I highly recommend the online course by First Nations Information Governance Centre (FNIGC) on the Fundamentals of Ownership, Control, Access, and Possession. The course is delivered through Algonquin College of Applied Arts and Technology and here's the direct link to the course information:

This image features four Indigenous symbols. The symbols from left to right represents First Nations, Inuit, Métis and Urban/Non-affiliated Indigenous people.

One of the many takeaways I got from the course is that while federal and provincial privacy and information laws exist to protect personal privacy (Privacy Act, Access to Information Act, LACA, PIPEDA), community privacy is not safeguarded in the same way. This is important (as are many other points shared in the course) because throughout Canada's history, there has been numerous breaches of research ethics which have caused tremendous harm (physical, psychological, social, economic, legal and relational) to Indigenous Communities across Canada. Although individual privacy may be legally protected, the harm to the communities ultimately ends up affecting everyone within it.

Another important point that was highlighted was that having research ethics approval within universities and other research centers does not automatically cover all ethical requirements for First Nation research. In Canada, the research ethic standard is the Tri‐Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Human (TCPS). Chapter 9 of the TCPS policy focuses on Research Involving the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples of Canada and actually encourages researchers to seek out OCAP compliancy (see articles 9.8 and 9.16)

As someone new to this area of data sovereignty, I found the fundamentals course especially enlightening. I hope the OCAP course will help others to participate in thoughtful and respectful discourse around personal data that belongs to Indigenous people in Canada and globally. In terms of time commitment, it took me just a few hours each week to complete all seven modules within a month.

If you're not ready to enroll in the class, but still would like to learn more, then I encourage you to check out the podcast, Root and Stem - "Beyond Ones and Zeroes" by Pinnguaq. In their first episode, "The Ethics of Indigenous Data Management," they cover many issues around First Nations Data Sovereignty as well as initiatives in Canada and Australia. The link to the episode is available here:

125 views0 comments


Still got research questions?

Request a free 30-minute consultation

Thank you for your submission. We'll find a solution for you shortly!

bottom of page
Privacy Policy Cookie Policy