Keeping Aboriginal research ethical

Rhoda Howard-Hassmann, a professor at Wilfrid Laurier who specializes in
international human rights, joined other academics in a lively dialogue on aboriginal research ethics this past Tuesday as a part of the 2011 CPSA Conference.

The debate drew many intrigued students and Conference delegates. A particularly contested subject was the topic of academic freedom when conducting delicate research on indigenous issues.

“If there’s no restraint [on academic freedom],” argued David Newhouse, a professor at Trent University, “it’s difficult to pursue a relationship that’s dedicated to peace.”

Newhouse advocated for developing a strong relationship with Native communities and ensuring that research would be for their benefit.

Frances Widdowson, who is a professor at Alberta’s Mount Royal University,
appeared to be affronted by the notion of limiting the capabilities of academics to
conduct research.

She emphasized the fact that participants in research studies are always able to refuse an answer, but was dissatisfied with the concept presented that certain questions should be ethically considered off limits. Howard-Hassmann was also a strong proponent for highly flexible academic freedom. The clash of will and opinions made the roundtable an educational and entertaining example of the benefits of academic discussion.