Appendix 5

Highlights of Granting Agency Indigenous Research Initiatives

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

Since the early 2000s, SSHRC has pursued a proactive and engaged commitment to Indigenous research. Throughout its dialogue with First Nations, and Inuit Métis peoples, SSHRC has gained a better understanding of, and appreciation for, the unique aspects of Indigenous research, and how they vary and interconnect with other ways of conducting research in the social sciences and humanities.Footnote 1

Over the past two decades, support for Indigenous research and research training has been growing steadily within the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), notably in the form of new funds, new programs and new partnerships with Indigenous communities. Between 2008 and 2017, SSHRC invested $360 million in funding for research on Indigenous themes and issues through 3,200 grants and scholarships, roughly 10 percent of SSHRC’s total funding for research.

National Dialogue on Research and Aboriginal Peoples (2002-2003)

SSHRC’s commitment to support Indigenous research and research training began with the adoption of a resolution by Council in 2002, where the thematic area of “Aboriginal Peoples” was identified as a priority research area.Footnote 2 In response, SSHRC launched a national dialogue that included over 50 briefs from a wide cross-section of Indigenous organizations and academics and, on November 29, 2002, SSHRC’s first-ever national round table on Indigenous research issues. This dialogue brought together 65 Indigenous, academic, government and community representatives from across Canada to discuss humanities and social sciences research in relation to Indigenous Peoples. In addition, over 325 individuals responded to SSHRC’s invitation to participate in electronic discussion groups.

The final phase of the dialogue was the preparation of a discussion paper, Opportunities in Aboriginal ResearchFootnote 3.

Aboriginal Research Pilot Program (2003-2010)

In 2003, SSHRC approved a recommendation by the Standing Committee for Research Support to develop a pilot program in Aboriginal Research. Shortly thereafter, SSHRC launched its Aboriginal Research Pilot Program, offering competitions in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2009. The driving principle of the program was to open up and sustain research by and with Indigenous Peoples (scholars and communities), as opposed to research for or on Indigenous Peoples. In 2008, SSHRC launched a formative evaluation of the PilotFootnote 4, covering 83 projects over three competitions totaling $12.7 million. SSHRC engaged First Nations, Métis and Inuit knowledge keepers in setting the direction for its evaluation of the pilot program.

The Aboriginal Research Pilot Program held its final competition in 2009-10, but SSHRC committed to continuing review and implementation of several of the program’s recommendations, pending available financial and human resources.

Imagining Canada’s Future (2013-present)

SSHRC launched the Imagining Canada’s Future initiative in 2013. Following a rigorous foresight exercise, six future challenge areas were identified as being most critical for Canada, including a dedicated focus on exploring how the experiences, knowledge systems and aspirations of Indigenous Peoples contribute to a shared future. In 2016, SSHRC launched a Knowledge Synthesis Grants competition to generate insights and promote knowledge sharing. With additional funding from the former Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), 28 projects were awarded grants. These projects covered a range of critical thematic issues through the lens of Indigenous worldviews and approaches. In addition, several of the projects under the other future challenge areas, including natural resources and energy, new ways of learning and teaching, digital technologies and a globalized society, were addressed from Indigenous perspectives. Summary reports of all the Knowledge Synthesis Grants are available on SSHRC’s website.

Indigenous Advisory Circle (2014-present)

An Indigenous Advisory Circle was established in 2014 to support SSHRC in developing an integrated strategy for Indigenous research, including the Indigenous Research Statement of Principles (see below). More elaborate Terms of Reference were developed for the Circle in 2018, whose overall mandate is now to "provide guidance to SSHRC senior management related to measures that support and promote Indigenous research and talent development, especially with the goal of advancing reconciliation."Footnote 5

More specifically, the Circle provides advice on:

Membership to the Circle is comprised of at least 15 members, including two co-chairs nominated by the Circle. At least one member of the Circle is an Algonquin Elder or knowledge keeper, in recognition of SSHRC’s location on Algonquin territory. Other members include First Nations, Inuit and Métis researchers; non-Indigenous researchers with in-depth experience working in partnership with Indigenous communities; and, as ex-officio members, the SSHRC Vice-President Research and a representative of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

The Circle meets in person up to two times per year, while members may also be called upon to participate by teleconference or email on an as-needed basis.

Indigenous Research Statement of Principles and related initiatives (2015-present)

In May 2015, in the context of ongoing dialogue with First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, and in close collaboration with the Indigenous Advisory Circle, SSHRC launched an Indigenous Research Statement of Principles and related resources in support of Indigenous research and talent. These resources included a revised definition of Indigenous research and the introduction of guidelines for the merit review of Indigenous research.

These guidelines are intended to supplement existing SSHRC materials, as well as complement Chapter 9 of the TCPS2. They provide interpretive points to assist and to ensure coherence among merit review committees in applying SSHRC’s evaluation criteria, as well as introduce key concepts for the review of Indigenous research (e.g., Indigenous or traditional knowledge, community, reciprocity, respect, and relevance).

Canadian Institutes of Health Research

# Commitment Activity Progress Status
1 Increase CIHR capacity to interact with Indigenous communities in a culturally appropriate manner, through the creation of a dedicated team assigned to work directly with Indigenous Peoples, researchers, and communities. Ongoing
  • CIHR created an IHR team of 3 employees in IMIS, including an Indigenous Project Lead
  • In addition, HR has developed a targeted recruitment strategy to share CIHR job openings with Indigenous Peoples networks. The outreach strategy has been successful in attracting Indigenous community members to apply to positions at CIHR
  • Since 2018, cultural competency training opportunities were taken by CIHR's and Institutes' employees (~25). A CIHR staff training strategy, including a mandatory training requirement, will be developed and implemented
2 Ensure that the Federal Government is made aware that the membership of CIHR’s Governing Council should reflect the diversity of Canada’s Indigenous Peoples. Complete
  • CIHR has informed the Government of Canada’s Privy Council Office of the gaps in CIHR GC membership to reflects the diversity of Canada Indigenous Peoples
  • Dr. Mark Dockstator, President of First Nations University of Canada has been appointed to Governing Council in December 2017
  • At its November 2016 meeting, Governing Council appointed Chelsea Gabel, Indigenous Canadian ethics expert, as member of the Standing Committee on Ethics
  • In addition to IIPH IAB, other Institutes’ IABs also increased their Indigenous representation, including the Institute of Gender and Health (IGH) and the Institute of Population and Public Health (IPPH)
3 Accept the definition of “Indigenous health research” as drafted by the Institute of Aboriginal Peoples’ Health in consultation with Indigenous stakeholders. Complete
  • As part of its Action Plan, CIHR adopted a new definition of IHR that put emphasis on research by and with Indigenous Peoples
  • To further support IHR, a definition of "Meaningful and Culturally Safe Health Research involvement" was developed with IIPH and has been included within recent Indigenous- focused RFAs
4 Develop, in collaboration with the newly appointed Institute Advisory Board on Indigenous Peoples’ Health, performance indicators to validate CIHR investments in Indigenous health research. Complete
  • As of 2018-19, the progress toward the 4.6% investment commitment will be included as one of 11 indicators that CIHR will report against annually to Parliament
5 Increase its investments in Indigenous health research to a minimum of 4.6% (proportional to Canada’s Indigenous population) of CIHR's annual budget. Annually
  • To ensure alignment with the new definition, CIHR revalidated its estimates in funding for IHR and calculated a new baseline estimate (based on the previous three years) of ~2%
  • In 2017/18, CIHR increased its investment in Indigenous health research to 3% of its total budget
6 Seek to grow these investments as research capacity and additional financial resources allow. Ongoing
  • CIHR is taking part in numerous multi-department working groups and tables (i.e., Health Portfolio table; Tri-Council WG on IHR; FNIHB-CIHR discussions, CRCC Indigenous Working Group) to grow IHR investments as research capacity and additional financial resources allow
7 Continue working with the Reference Group on Indigenous Health Research ‎ to implement iterative peer review processes for applications relevant to Indigenous health, so as to ensure better success rates for Indigenous-focused investigator-initiated grant applications. In Progress
date: June
  • We are continuing our commitment to iterative peer review for IHR which allows for promising applications to receive feedback from the peer review panel and resubmit in order to strengthen their applications
  • CIHR is in discussions with SSHRC and NSERC to create a tri-council reference group. The membership and the terms of reference will be formalized following those discussions
8 Create, with the advice of the Institute Advisory Board on Indigenous Peoples’ Health, impactful strategic initiatives aimed at improving the health of Indigenous Peoples. Ongoing
  • CIHR has launched the Network Environments for Indigenous Health Research (NEIHR) to address the needs in capacity building and to respond to the community. The NEIHR program is an $100.8M investment over a 16-year period
  • CIHR has launched the Indigenous Component of the Healthy Life Trajectories Initiative (I-HeLTI) to establish the infrastructure, capacity and partnerships necessary to develop and ultimately conduct an Indigenous-driven I-HeLTI DOHaD Intervention Cohort Research Study. I-HeLTI is an $22M investment over a 9-year period
  • CIHR has launched the Pathways Implementation Research Teams Component 3 to develop and share recommendations, guidelines and policies for sustainability and enhanced equitable reach and access of interventions that incorporate reciprocal learning between participating Indigenous communities and research teams. Component 3 is an $6M investment over a 5-year period
  • IIPH has launched the Indigenous Research Chairs in Nursing to advance the development of knowledge and best and wise practices in the area of nursing practice, education, research and administration. It is an $5.9M investment over a 5-year period
  • Other initiatives include Indigenous components such as Food security and Climate Change in the Canadian North, Transitions in Care, Indigenous Gender and Wellness, and Cannabis Research in Priority Areas
  • The new IIPH Strategic plan will be released this summer, and identifies research priorities defined with communities for 2019 to 2024
  • SPOR is continuing to engage with the Indigenous communities in the north to establish SUPPORT Units that will be responsive to their needs
9 Hold annual meetings between the President of CIHR and leaders of the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, and the Métis National Council to discuss Indigenous health research priorities. Annually
  • CIHR continues to reach out to build relationships with the senior leadership of Indigenous organizations
  • The reconstituted IIPH Institute Advisory Board includes seats for members of the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, and Métis National Council
  • January 2019, CIHR committed to support ITK in advancing their health research goals and priorities in a meaningful manner
10 Work with other federal research councils to develop strategies to strengthen Indigenous research capacity development through training and mentoring along the entire career continuum from undergraduate to postdoctoral levels. Ongoing
  • Tri-council workshop in partnership with the Alberta First Nations Information Governance Centre to support community engagement in research
  • Tri-council level discussion are underway to explore options to broaden eligibility for Indigenous organizations to apply for and hold research funds
  • Harmonized tri-agency instructions for applicants, host/nominating institutions and reviewers for Vanier and Banting Programs

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada

Research and Knowledge Mobilization Networks


India-Canada Centre for Innovative Multidisciplinary Partnerships to Accelerate Community Transformation and Sustainability (2012-2021)

IC-IMPACTS and its partners are developing and implementing community-based solutions to meet the most urgent needs faced by some communities in Canada and India: poor water quality, unsafe and unsustainable infrastructure, and poor health from water-borne and infectious diseases. As an example of the impactful work they do, a March 2019 call for proposals is dedicated to the design and construction of low-cost, resilient, energy efficient, and safe housing for First Nations communities, an area of immediate and high priority for IC-IMPACTS and their partner communities.

RESEAU Centre for Mobilizing Innovation (2019-2023 Networks of Centres of Excellence-Knowledge Mobilization Program)

RESEAU’s goal is to accelerate the creation of sustainable improvements in drinking water health for Canadian Indigenous and non-urban (I+NU) communities. RESEAU’s Community Circle™ model for innovation customizes solutions for communities, with decisions, practices, technologies and services tailored to a community’s unique needs. It systematically collects and assesses existing knowledge of potential solutions, while capturing and weighing the perspective of all the stakeholders involved in I+NU water system upgrades.

This NCE-KM grant builds on the tremendous successes of the RES’EAU-WaterNET (NSERC Strategic Network, 2013-2018), which accomplished notable goals such as the lifting of long-standing boil-water advisories in the Lytton First Nation, British Columbia.

Canadian Mountain Network (2019-2024 Networks of Centres of Excellence)

The Canadian Mountain Network (CMN) is Canada’s first national research organization dedicated to mountains. CMN’s vision is for all Canadians to benefit from state-of-the-art research, tools and training that embody multiple ways of knowing, so that decision-making and action can enhance the sustainability and well-being of our mountain places and peoples. CMN will pursue this research in the context of four critical challenges:

Science Promotion


The goal of PromoScience is to increase science literacy among young Canadians and boost the number of students who pursue studies and careers in STEM fields. The program places an emphasis on underrepresented groups such as young women, girls and Indigenous Canadians in the K-12 system.

Actua is one of the largest recipients of PromoScience funding. Actua’s programming showcases northern science and incorporates traditional knowledge to make the lessons locally and culturally relevant for youth.

Science Rendezvous is an NSERC-sponsored national science festival with events in northern communities that incorporate traditional knowledge to provide culturally-relevant science activities.

2016 NSERC Award for Science Promotion – Elephant Thoughts

Elephant Thoughts Education Outreach is making outstanding contributions to the promotion of STEM to Indigenous communities. Their programming brings together traditional Indigenous knowledge with Western science. Elephant Thoughts has developed curriculum for students at the Cree School Board in Northern Quebec, and its unique science and math programs have raised graduation rates for students by a factor of almost 10, from 1.7 percent to 15.6 percent over a three-year period.

Aboriginal Ambassadors in the Natural Sciences and Engineering

This program aims to engage Indigenous students and fellows in promoting interest and participation in the natural sciences and engineering by visiting Canada’s Indigenous communities and schools and sharing their research and education experiences or participating in science promotion events and activities. The requirements of this program have recently been changed to better support Indigenous students in the establishment of their research careers.

Capacity Building

Undergraduate Student Research Awards (USRA)

USRAs are meant to develop potential for research careers. NSERC encourages qualified Indigenous students to apply for this award. From 2013-14 to 2017-18, 348 Indigenous undergrads have participated in the program, increasing year-over-year.

Research and Training

NSERC Discovery Grant Researchers integrating Indigenous knowledge into research

Dr. Jesse Popp (Mount Allison University) incorporates Indigenous science approaches and traditional ecological knowledge, which underpins her specialization in wildlife management, conservation biology, terrestrial ecology, and restoration ecology. Dr. Popp was first funded in 2009 and 2013 through subsequent NSERC Alexander Graham Bell Master’s and Doctoral Scholarships. She received her first NSERC Discovery Grant in 2018.

Dr. Susan Kutz (University of Calgary) is working closely with Indigenous communities in Nunavut to understand the decline of muskox, an important resource for many northern communities where climate change is significantly impacting livelihoods. Dr. Kutz’s research relies heavily on traditional knowledge, community-based surveillance and scientific approaches. Dr. Kutz holds an NSERC Discovery Grant, Northern Research Supplement and a PromoScience Award.

NSERC Discovery Researchers Grant connecting with Indigenous youth

Dr. Joerg Bohlmann (University of British Columbia) explores conifers’ natural defenses against insects, an important resource whose health is increasingly threatened by outbreaks of forest insect pests. Dr. Bolhmann’s research program trains and mentors Indigenous high school, undergraduate and graduate students.

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