Three children play at the 2016 opening of the The Tipella Early Childhood Development Hub (ECD Hub) in Xa’xsta Nation, north of Harrison Lake. The project was led by the Southern Stl'atl'imx Health Society (SSHS), which is funded by and collaborates closely with the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA).


Ground-breaking agreement increases Indigenous self-determination for health research

February 06, 2020

The First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) and Simon Fraser University have signed a Research Affiliation Agreement that will support FNHA to manage federal government funds for research into Indigenous health and wellness. The agreement will also help FNHA build its future capacity for directly holding federal grants.

The first agreement of its kind between FNHA and an academic institution, it gives FNHA research affiliate status with SFU. And while a typical research agreement acknowledges the academic partner’s ownership of intellectual property, this agreement acknowledges the First Nations principles of Ownership, Control, Access and Possession (OCAP)®, and that FNHA holds the right to ownership of intellectual property.

“Managing research grants directly will help us to focus more on improving Indigenous health outcomes,” explains Richard Jock, FNHA’s interim chief executive officer.

Under the new agreement, SFU will serve as the financial support for FNHA’s publicly funded research. One example is a CIHR-funded $2.5-million Indigenizing Harm Reduction study to improve the health system’s response to the opioid crisis’s impact on B.C. First Nations.

FNHA is leading the study, including principal investigators Amanda Ward and  Namaste Marsden who are FNHA research leads and adjunct faculty at SFU, along with co-investigators William Small, SFU health sciences professor and Kora DeBeck, SFU public policy professor.

This innovative project is the first in Canada to use community-based research to gather Indigenous perspectives on health and harm reduction.

The affiliate agreement frames this collaborative study and others that FNHA and SFU are partnered on, drawing on the unique strengths of both institutions. Under the Research Affiliation Agreement, the FNHA can lead research with SFU’s institutional support, which furthers the goal of Indigenous self-determination in research.

As a research affiliate with SFU, FNHA will receive 50 per cent of the research support funds that SFU receives to support FNHA grants it holds. These funds can then be used to fund research administration at FNHA which, in turn, builds FNHA’s capacity for financial reporting and ethical reviewing when carrying out Tri-Agency-funded research.

“This is a first-of-its-kind agreement that will help shape our growing research relationship with B.C. First Nations,” says Joy Johnson, SFU’s vice-president, research and international.

This agreement contributes to reconciliation, positioning SFU and FNHA as equal, and recognizes the right of First Nations to control all aspects of the research, information and data that impacts them.

See the FNHA press release about this unique agreement.