Indigenous Knowledge Policy Framework
Table of contents
- 1. What is Indigenous Knowledge?
- 2. Overview of the CNSC’s approach to working with Indigenous Knowledge
- 2.1 General principles for working with Indigenous Knowledge at the CNSC
- 2.1.1 Collaborate with Indigenous Nations, communities and knowledge holders
- 2.1.2 Seek consent to consider Indigenous Knowledge
- 2.1.3 Take appropriate measures to protect information, if required
- 2.1.4 Facilitate the gathering and consideration of Indigenous Knowledge
- 2.1.5 Respect different cultural perspectives and world views
- 2.1 General principles for working with Indigenous Knowledge at the CNSC
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The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) acknowledges the importance of working with, considering and reflecting Indigenous Knowledge alongside regulatory information in its assessments and regulatory processes. Indigenous ways of knowing and the Indigenous cultural context enhance the CNSC’s understanding of the potential impacts of nuclear projects and strengthen the rigour of project reviews and regulatory oversight. This framework is intended to clearly articulate the CNSC’s approach to working with Indigenous Peoples and their knowledge, and it is consistent with the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada’s framework and approach for working with Indigenous Knowledge.
1. What is Indigenous Knowledge?
Indigenous Knowledge means knowledge that is unique to Indigenous Peoples (in Canada: First Nations, Inuit and Métis). Indigenous Knowledge is the term used in legislation (such as the Impact Assessment Act) and by regulatory bodies because it covers the evolving knowledge of Indigenous Peoples and encompasses terms like traditional knowledge, traditional ecological or environmental knowledge, traditional land use, archeological assessment, Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge, Métis Traditional Knowledge and Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit.
Indigenous Knowledge is a body of knowledge gathered by generations of Indigenous Peoples living in close contact with their traditional territories and resources. Indigenous Knowledge is cumulative and dynamic. It is built on the historic experiences of a people and adapts to social, economic, environmental, spiritual and political change.
Indigenous Knowledge forms part of a larger body of knowledge that encompasses knowledge about cultural, environmental, economic, health, political and spiritual inter-relationships. Indigenous Knowledge must also be understood in the context of, and not separate from, the language, perspectives and world views of the knowledge holders. Indigenous Knowledge can be considered both tangibly (e.g., knowledge of wildlife species or traditional plants) and intangibly (e.g., quiet enjoyment of the landscape or sites used for teaching). Intangible values are often linked with spiritual, artistic, aesthetic and educational elements that are frequently associated with the identity of Indigenous Nations and communities. These intangible aspects of Indigenous Knowledge are deeply rooted within Indigenous cultures and ways of life.
Although there are many definitions of Indigenous Knowledge, none is universally accepted. However, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) clearly summarizes the context with its definition:
Local and indigenous knowledge refers to the understandings, skills and philosophies developed by societies with long histories of interaction with their natural surroundings…. This knowledge is integral to a cultural complex that also encompasses language, systems of classification, resource use practices, social interactions, rituals and spirituality.Footnote 1
Further, the CNSC’s framework supports the Government of Canada’s implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (UN Declaration Act), which affirms the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) “as a universal international human rights instrument with application in Canadian law”. UNDRIP contains 24 preambular provisions and 46 articles. The following articles from UNDRIP are of particular importance to the CNSC’s Indigenous Knowledge Framework:
- Article 31(1). Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions, as well as the manifestations of their sciences, technologies and cultures, including human and genetic resources, seeds, medicines, knowledge of the properties of fauna and flora, oral traditions, literatures, designs, sports and traditional games and visual and performing arts. They also have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their intellectual property over such cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expressions.
- Article 31(2). In conjunction with indigenous peoples, States shall take effective measures to recognize and protect the exercise of these rights.
- Article 43. The rights recognized herein constitute the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world.Footnote 2
2. Overview of the CNSC’s approach to working with Indigenous Knowledge
As the lifecycle regulator for the nuclear industry in Canada, the CNSC has a broad mandate:
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission regulates the use of nuclear energy and materials to protect health, safety, security and the environment; to implement Canada’s international commitments on the peaceful use of nuclear energy; and to disseminate objective scientific, technical and regulatory information to the public.Footnote 3
The CNSC’s subject-matter experts, who work in a wide variety of fields and business lines, should routinely take into account Indigenous Knowledge in their efforts to help the Commission discharge its mandate. The CNSC acknowledges the importance of working with, considering and reflecting Indigenous Knowledge in its assessments and regulatory processes. Indigenous ways of knowing and the Indigenous cultural context enhance the CNSC’s understanding of the potential impacts of nuclear projects and strengthen the rigour of project reviews and regulatory oversight.
Indigenous Knowledge is held by the Indigenous Peoples who live near and/or use the area of a proposed project or facility and who have a long-term relationship with the lands, waters and resources that are likely to be impacted. As a result, incorporating Indigenous Knowledge into the CNSC’s processes can support and complement the work conducted by CNSC staff, proponents and the Commission in many ways. Indigenous Knowledge can be shared in different forms: in writing, in photos, through video, orally, in ceremonies or through activities on the land. The CNSC considers and reflects Indigenous Knowledge in its regulatory work, as applicable. This includes, but is not limited to:
- licensing at various stages of a project (i.e., siting, construction, operation, decommissioning and post-decommissioning)
- environmental reviews (e.g., effects assessment, valued components)
- environmental risk assessments and human health risk assessment reviews
- the CNSC’s Independent Environmental Monitoring Program (including sampling plans and screening levels)
- ongoing engagement and outreach with Indigenous Nations and communities
- oral and written interventions at Commission proceedings (i.e., hearings, meetings)
It is important for the CNSC to work with and consider Indigenous Knowledge in order to follow best practices, comply with legislative requirements (e.g., Impact Assessment Act), build relationships and trust with Indigenous Peoples, and fulfill duty-to-consult obligations. Overall, Indigenous Knowledge can help strengthen the rigour of project reviews and regulatory oversight.
Regulatory document REGDOC-3.2.2, Indigenous Engagement, explains that the CNSC expects licensees and proponents to work directly with Indigenous Nations, communities and knowledge holders on gathering, incorporating and reflecting Indigenous Knowledge in their project designs, operations, reports and monitoring, as appropriate.
The CNSC uses an approach to working with Indigenous Knowledge that is consistent with and informed by the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada’s Indigenous Knowledge Policy Framework for Project Reviews and Regulatory Decisions.
For more information on the CNSC’s approach to Indigenous consultation, engagement and reconciliation, please see: nuclearsafety.gc.ca/eng/resources/aboriginal-consultation/index.cfm.
2.1 General principles for working with Indigenous Knowledge at the CNSC
The CNSC has put in place 5 general principles for working with Indigenous Knowledge:
- Collaborate with Indigenous Nations, communities and knowledge holders.
- Seek consent to consider Indigenous Knowledge.
- Take appropriate measures to protect information, if required.
- Facilitate the gathering and consideration of Indigenous Knowledge.
- Respect different cultural perspectives and world views.
2.1.1 Collaborate with Indigenous Nations, communities and knowledge holders
The knowledge of each Indigenous Nation or community is unique to that group; therefore, the manner in which it will be considered and reflected needs to be determined with the holders of that knowledge. Knowledge holders are experts on their own Indigenous Knowledge. This means that no one should re-interpret their knowledge without their direct involvement. Indigenous Nations and communities have established processes, protocols and laws governing matters related to Indigenous Knowledge. The processes and protocols come in many forms – some may be formally documented, while others may be communicated orally or through ceremonies. Dialogue with Indigenous Nations and communities involved in project reviews and regulatory decisions will help raise awareness and understanding of Nation or community-specific processes and protocols with regard to Indigenous Knowledge. When CNSC staff work with Indigenous Knowledge, it is recommended that:
- Nations and communities be contacted as early as practicable during a project or regulatory process and informed that their input is being sought through their Indigenous Knowledge protocols or processes, if available
- Nations and communities be given the opportunity to provide Indigenous Knowledge as part of the regulatory review process or other related activity
- Nations and communities be given clear and accurate information about the project and regulatory review process (and any other areas in which Indigenous Knowledge may be appropriately considered and reflected), and how the Indigenous Knowledge shared may be considered and reflected in the CNSC’s processes and reports
- CNSC staff consider the context of broader long-term relationship building; it is crucial to establish a relationship of trust with the Nation or community, its leaders and knowledge holders
- CNSC staff promote a meaningful and ongoing dialogue about the Indigenous Knowledge being considered
- CNSC staff consider the preferred language of knowledge holders, Nations and communities
- CNSC staff consider the voices of the wider community, especially youth, women, Elders, and gender diverse and Two-Spirit peoples.
Note: CNSC staff should be aware that each Indigenous Nation or community has its own laws and customs regarding who holds different aspects of its Indigenous Knowledge, how and with whom it might be shared, and who has authority to share and pass it on.
2.1.2 Seek consent to consider Indigenous Knowledge
Only the Indigenous Nation, community and knowledge holders can decide whether they are willing to provide the CNSC with access to their Indigenous Knowledge.
CNSC staff should seek the written consent of a Nation or community to access that Nation or community's Indigenous Knowledge and to consider and reflect it in the CNSC’s regulatory processes and reports. When seeking consent, CNSC staff should work closely with the Nation or community to:
- clearly set out how the information will be collected and how it will be considered, and ensure that Nation or community members are in agreement with the process and approach
- give Nation or community members and leadership clear information about how the information and knowledge will be treated, the relevant access-to-information legislative requirements, and the CNSC’s approach to protecting and keeping Indigenous Knowledge confidential
- consider, upon request, collaborative approaches to including Indigenous Knowledge in CNSC reports (e.g., drafting appropriate sections of reports that include Indigenous Knowledge in collaboration with Indigenous Nations and communities)
- ensure that Indigenous Knowledge is used only for the purpose for which it was originally provided; permission. Permission and guidance from Indigenous Nations, communities and knowledge holders must be sought prior to using Indigenous Knowledge for projects or decisions outside the scope for which that knowledge was originally provided.
Note: In some instances, Indigenous Nations or communities prefer not to have Indigenous Knowledge considered or reflected in the CNSC’s processes and reports. The CNSC will respect each Indigenous Nation or community’s requests and preferences with respect to working with the Indigenous Knowledge they have shared.
2.1.3 Take appropriate measures to protect information, if required
The CNSC acknowledges the importance of establishing consent-based processes to prevent unauthorized disclosure of Indigenous Knowledge. It also acknowledges that Indigenous Nations and communities will determine whether to share their knowledge, and what aspects of that knowledge they wish to share in confidence with the CNSC.
The CNSC recognizes that Indigenous Knowledge provided in confidence must be protected from unauthorized disclosure. The Commission is a quasi-judicial administrative tribunal and has mechanisms and procedures to protect from public disclosure certain informationFootnote 4 submitted as part of a Commission proceeding. The Commission Registry will maintain the confidentiality of any Indigenous Knowledge provided when so requested by Indigenous Nations, communities and knowledge holders. The Indigenous Knowledge shared with CNSC staff is treated in a manner that respects the requests of Indigenous Nations, communities and knowledge holders, while recognizing that any information under the control of the CNSC is subject to access-to-information legislation. For more information, refer to the Request to Protect Confidential Information form or contact the Commission Registry at email@example.com.
2.1.4 Facilitate the gathering and consideration of Indigenous Knowledge
CNSC staff recognize that Indigenous Nations and communities may require support to facilitate the gathering, transmission and consideration of Indigenous Knowledge in relation to nuclear projects and proposals and for the CNSC’s regulatory review processes.
Indigenous Nations and communities also require adequate time and resources to collect and manage Indigenous Knowledge, including human resources, education, training, research, translation, and information storage and management. Managing these issues will enable Indigenous Nations and communities to meaningfully participate in and provide Indigenous Knowledge as part of project reviews and regulatory processes. The CNSC is committed to working with each Indigenous Nation or community to ensure the availability of funding, or other mechanisms, to support their participation in CNSC-led projects and regulatory review processes of interest, as early as possible.
CNSC staff should be flexible when facilitating the gathering and consideration of Indigenous Knowledge. The CNSC recognizes that the processes and protocols that govern matters related to Indigenous Knowledge may come in many forms (e.g. formally documented or communicated orally or through ceremony). The CNSC should be flexible in accommodating the provision of Indigenous Knowledge in an Indigenous language or through forms other than the written form.
To further support and facilitate the gathering and consideration of Indigenous Knowledge, it is recommended that CNSC staff continue to build cultural competency and awareness. Ongoing training for staff should cover a variety of topics, including the cultures, history, heritage and perspectives of First Nations, Inuit and Métis. Other training should include Indigenous–Crown relationships, treaty rights of Indigenous Peoples, the history of treaties, and UNDRIP. Lastly, CNSC staff should continue to be trained to work respectfully with Indigenous Peoples, understand the existence and legitimacy of different knowledge systems, and meaningfully consider Indigenous Knowledge through a two-eyed seeing approach.
2.1.5 Respect different cultural perspectives and world views
The CNSC is a technical, evidence-based organization; it recognizes that different types of knowledge exist and that they can overlap, intersect, complement and inform one another. Indigenous Knowledge needs to be considered alongside other knowledge, including western science. By embracing the concept of two-eyed seeing, Indigenous Knowledge and western knowledge can work collaboratively to improve the CNSC’s processes, initiatives, recommendations, and understanding of potential impacts on Indigenous Peoples.
When Indigenous Knowledge is appropriately considered and reflected in CNSC processes and decisions, it is a valuable source of information about a project and the local environment. CNSC staff acknowledge and respect the different cultural perspectives and world views unique to knowledge holders and Indigenous Nations and communities. Respect for different knowledge systems and for one another are important principles that the CNSC will uphold when working with Indigenous Nations and communities and their knowledge.
- Footnote 1
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Local Knowledge, Global Goals. Online: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000259599. Consulted on August 2, 2019.
- Footnote 2
United Nations. United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Online: https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/declaration-on-the-rights-of-indigenous-peoples.html. Consulted on September 22, 2022
- Footnote 3
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. Regulatory framework overview. Online: https://www.cnsc-ccsn.gc.ca/eng/acts-and-regulations/regulatory-framework/index.cfm. Consulted on September 30, 2020.
- Footnote 4
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission Rules of Procedure (SOR/2000-211), s. 12.
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