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Saskatoon Focus Group Scheduled for May 12-13

On May 12-13, 2017, ABS Canada will be hosting its next focus group in Saskatoon, SK in partnership with the University of Saskatchewan College of Law as part of its research project entitled “Building Capacity: Towards an Aboriginal-Sensitive Access and Benefit Sharing Policy for Canada.” This will be the third focus group ABS Canada has hosted to date. On 15-16 of October 2015, ABS Canada held its first focus group in Moncton, New Brunswick in partnership with the Maritime Aboriginal Peoples Council.  From 5-6 May 2016, ABS Canada hosted its second capacity-building workshop and focus group in Ottawa, Ontario.

The purpose of the focus groups is to meet with, and listen to, Indigenous leaders and community members on topics related to:

  1. Genetic resources located in Aboriginal territories
  2. Traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources
  3. Methods of protecting Aboriginal traditional knowledge from exploitation
  4. Economic opportunities for Indigenous communities that flow from genetic resources


Insights generated from these participatory forums are expected to help inform the national discussion regarding implementation of a national ABS frameworks in Canada in ways that reflect and embody Aboriginal sensibilities and interests.


To prepare for these upcoming discussions in Saskatoon, ABS researchers and participants will convene for a traditional welcoming ceremony hosted at the Native Law Centre at the University of Saskatchewan.


In support of ABS Canada’s efforts to build Indigenous capacity on the legal issues surrounding ABS, our team will run an introductory workshop reviewing the state of the law in Canada as it relates to TK and genetic resources, and walk through that Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) agreements do. These agreements are the contracts that let outside actors like as pharmaceutical companies, university researchers, and government officials access Aboriginal TK. These agreements also detail what will happen with any benefits that are derived from the use of that TK and associated genetic resources, whether commercial or non-commercial.


On the second day of the focus group, participants will gather in a circle in a loosely facilitated discussion. Participants will be asked their thoughts on the role of TK in their community, the benefits of sharing Aboriginal TK with non-Aboriginal Canadians, the role of government and industry in cooperating with Aboriginal communities to document and possibly commercialize their TK, and other associated issues. The purpose of this discussion is to develop a better understanding of Indigenous perspectives on some important questions:

  • Should Aboriginal TK be shared?
  • Is there anything wrong with “selling” TK or access to TK?
  • What are the responsibilities of researchers who work with Indigenous communities across the country?
  • Should corporations ever be allowed to patent products derived from GR and associated TK?
  • If you were to negotiate with someone seeking access to your community’s knowledge, what would you want them to understand?


In addition to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, the University of Saskatchewan College of Law and Osgood Hall Law School, ABS Canada would like to thank the following institutional partners for their support of this event:

  1. The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI)
  2. The International Law Research Program at the University of Ottawa
  3. The Maritime Aboriginal Peoples Council
  4. The Center for International Sustainable Development Law (CISDL)
  5. Open Air – African Innovation Research at the University of Ottawa

Andrea Lesperance is a Research Assistant with ABS Canada. Andrea is currently completing her Juris Doctor at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law. In 2014, Andrea graduated from the University of Windsor’s Faculty of Earth and Environmental Science with Honours. She has focused her academic scholarship on contemporary Indigenous issues and resource management. Andrea previously worked in community development within South African townships.