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Saskatoon Focus Group: Towards an Aboriginal-Sensitive Access and Benefit Sharing Policy

For those just reading our blog for the first time, ABS Canada is a research group focusing on the perspectives of Indigenous stakeholders in Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) regimes over genetic resources. The goal of the ABS Canada project is to provide an independent platform for capacity-building through education, training, networking, consultation and the exchange of ideas between Canadian government departments and agencies and Indigenous stakeholders about ABS over dealings with genetic resources and associated Indigenous traditional knowledge. In addition, we hope to share knowledge, experiences, and best practices to equip Indigenous communities in the crucial years ahead as Canada mulls its response to the Nagoya Protocol; and, beyond that, as it contemplates a national policy on ABS.. Further, the project assists in generating awareness and knowledge mobilization between industry and Indigenous communities regarding the dynamic nature of their increasingly intersecting interests in biodiversity conservation and the evolution of biotechnologies. Fundamentally, this project contributes to Indigenous empowerment as a gap-filling initiative in a specialist area with ramification for confidence building, justice and equity and national cohesion.

To further these goals, ABS Canada has hosted two capacity-building workshops and focus groups to date. The forums’ objectives have include awareness-raising, capacity-building, and identification and discussion of issues relating to ABS in Canada from Indigenous and other stakeholder perspectives. Insights from these forums are expected to support future policy developments or implementation of national or international ABS frameworks in Canada in ways that reflect and embody Indigenous sensitivities and interests in ABS in Canada.

As indicated, ABS Canada has hosted two focus groups to date (Monton, NB and Ottawa, ON) in partnership with the Maritime Aboriginal Peoples Council (MAPC) and Indigenous leaders from Central Canada, and with additional support for the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI). At these Focus Groups, participants

Some individuals were particularly impacted, with one youth delegate from Quebec pledging to start a group in her community to involve them in the national ABS Discussion. Another Chief from Northern Ontario has since connected ABS Canada with the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law in Thunder Bay to do additional outreach to local communities, and Indigenous youth. May 12-13, 2017, ABS Canada, in partnership with the Native Law Centre at the University of Saskatchewan College of Law, will be hosting its next focus group in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. This is an opportunity for Indigenous community members, knowledge keepers, and leaders to provide answers to questions such as:

  • Do you think Aboriginal TK should 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 TK?
  • If you were to negotiate with someone seeking access to your community’s knowledge, what would you want them to understand?

If you or your organization are interested in attending this event, please register here. We hope to see you in Saskatoon!

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.

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