The Tunnel at the End of the Light? Development of the Tri Council Policy Statement in Canada
In 1998, the three major government funding Councils put in place the Tri-Council Policy Statement (TCPS) to regulate all research involving humans in Canada funded by them. In this paper, we examine the process of developing the TCPS, a historic and very important document in Canada’s research ethics landscape, and the application of the concepts of democratic legitimacy, transparency, representation, accountability and community engagement in that process. This exercise, important as it is, has been only marginally conducted elsewhere in the past. We attempt to put the process in historical, legal and political context, and argue that efforts were made to ensure basic democratic values in the process, but that these attempts should have been taken farther. The objective of this paper is to highlight the extent to which these values have shaped research ethics policy in Canada and draw lessons for how future policies in this area and other areas that are possibly as contentious may profit from this experience. As this paper was being written, the TCPS was under revision. As the process of drawing up a second edition was ongoing, we also considered, briefly, the direction in which that process appeared headed, and what, if any, lessons could be drawn from the process of putting in place the first edition. The text that follows is current to Fall 2009.
KeywordsResearch ethics Governance Canada Regulation Tri-Council Policy Statement
This study was undertaken in conjunction with the Australian Research Council Discovery Project grant “Big Picture Bioethics: Policy-Making and Liberal Democracy” (DP0556068), and a Neuroethics New Emerging Team (NET) grant funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
This chapter is a substantially revised version of: Cheluchi Onyemelukwe and Jocelyn Downie. 2011. The tunnel at the end of the light? A critical analysis of the development of the Tri-Council Policy Statement, Canadian Journal of Law and Society: 159–176.
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