Weighing Benefits and Risks

Data, Information and Knowledge

The Issue

A neglected issue for First Nations is how to gather, store and share data, information and knowledge that is required in order to engage effectively in BA processes.

With regard to data, Gibson and O’Faircheallaigh’s (2015) work on this topic is practical, and it fills an important procedural gap for First Nations. They advise that the community needs to develop a work plan early in the BA process that sets out information needs in the short, medium and long term. Realistically, it may not be feasible to collect all required before negotiations start, and it might not be efficient to try to do so, as what transpires in early negotiations always helps define additional information requirements. Hence, this phase should be seen as an ongoing learning time, where new information is always coming in and new areas for further study are being identified (Gibson and O’Faircheallaigh, 2015, 72).

Open North and the BC First Nations Data Governance Initiative’s (BCFNDGI) (2017) thought leadership on Indigenous Data Sovereignty also provides valuable insights on data considerations. The case of Indigenous sovereignty is predicated on the recognition that governments have not handled and managed Indigenous data appropriately. Data on Indigenous communities has been collected, analysed and shared in ways that have reinforced systemic oppression, barriers and unequal power relations.


This data has also traditionally been interpreted in ways that reinforce negative stereotyping and has magnified information asymmetries for Indigenous communities. Often this data is also deemed to be owned and controlled by non-Indigenous people and the government. In response, Open North and the BCFNDGI, along with other First Nation community partners have articulated as set of principles and values around data sovereignty that could inform BA processes. These are elaborated further in the tools and resources section of this brief.

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