What about the land and the water?

What about the land and the water? is a project aimed at re-thinking the way research ethics are approached at Yukon University and in the Canadian post-secondary context to be more inclusive of Indigenous worldviews. Thus far, humans and animals have been the focus of research ethics boards, where research projects are examined for their ethical considerations before the research starts. Through a collaboration between the VP Indigenous Engagement and Reconciliation and the VP Research Development, this project explores how Yukon First Nations worldviews could be uplifted and celebrated through a research ethics process that considers all aspects of the environment, including the land and the water. YukonU is committed to leading by example through our partnerships with Yukon First Nations, including the indigenization of research and the exploration of reconciliation through research.

Project Overview

A collaboration between the VP Indigenous Engagement and Reconciliation and the VP Research Development, this project focuses on re-thinking and re-envisioning Yukon University’s approach to research ethics. The project team interviewed five Elders from across Yukon First Nations and held a workshop with the President’s Advisory Committee on First Nations Initiatives (PACFNI) to gather perspectives on the fundamental principles of ethics when interacting with the environment. Based on these conversations, the research team examined the current process and their guiding principles for opportunities and obstacles to adjusting the current research ethics review process. The research team then developed a series of scenarios for consideration, ranging from small scale adjustments to a complete re-structuring of current processes. Through-out the research project, faculty, staff, and researchers have been engaged through informal conversations that inform the development of these scenarios and future conversations about potential changes.


The results from this project contributed to Setting new directions to support Indigenous research and research training in Canada, the 2020 strategic plan released by the Tri-Council (NSERC, SSHRC, CIHR), through a position paper outlining the potential paths forward and participation in a national roundtable in Ottawa in March, 2019. Results were also presented to Yukon College’s Senior Executive Committee (SEC), where there was an appetite for further exploration of this initiative. The Research Services Office has committed to ongoing reflection and discussion on future pathways and a SSHRC grant application is being prepared in support of the continuation and expansion of this conversation. Ongoing initiatives include the continuation of engagement with PACFNI, YukonU faculty and staff, and YukonU leadership about future modifications to the REB process, with an aim to fully re-imagine research ethics review processes.

Project Team

Tosh Southwick, Principle Investigator, Associate Vice President Indigenous Engagement and Reconciliation

Bronwyn Hancock, Associate Vice President Research Development

Samantha Darling, YukonU Research Centre, Researcher


Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Connection Grant - Indigenous Research Capacity and Reconciliation