Bioethics Blogs

Will TCPS2 Improvements Reach Researchers?

Canadian oral historian Nancy Janovicek applauds the ways that TCPS2 improves over TPCS’s treatment of oral history, but she warns that historians still must devote time to bureaucratic strategy that might be better spent exploring ethics and interviewing narrators.

[Nancy Janovicek, ,“Oral History and Ethical Practice after TCPS2,” in The Canadian Oral History Reader, ed. Kristina R. Llewellyn, Alexander Freund, and Nolan Reilly (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s Press, 2015), 73–97.]

In 2003, Janovicek co-authored the Canadian Historical Association’s comments on TCPS, and in a 2006 article that became one of the first items mentioned on this blog, she warned that TCPS imposed anonymity on narrators who wished to be named, and that it suggested that Band Councils be allowed to censor indigenous narrators who might want to speak critically to historians. As she puts it in the new chapter,

The original TCPS did not reflect historians’ ethics and professional concerns. It presented new dilemmas and criteria based on the policy’s emphasis on reducing harm, which had little to do with the moral issues that historians face in the field, REBs’ strict interpretations of the policy made it difficult to pursue projects on sensitive issues and often ignored the methods that are practised by oral historians and which are proven measures for balancing the reputations of their informants with the requirements of the discipline. (79)

Canada proved more nimble than the United States in revising its guidelines, and the 2010 TCPS2 addressed Canadian historians’ concerns. The revised policy, Janovicek explains, recognizes that “in oral history, anonymity is the exception,” that “destroying evidence conflicts with what historians do,” that overprotection is a problem, and that “the interpretation of the policy must not impede research on controversial subjects in First Nations, Inuit, and Metis communities.” So far so good.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.