Youth, Arts and Media Team

Since we are also learning about digital literacy this summer, we thought we'd explore what a few superheros would look like if their super powers came from beans.
Since we are also learning about digital literacy this summer, we thought we'd explore what a few superheros would look like if their super powers came from beans.

What is Data Sovereignty and why is it important?

Learn about Indigenous Data Sovereignty and its role in empowering Inuit, Red River Metis, and First Nations communities, ensuring data control and self-governance.

Last week, we learned about the importance of protecting Indigenous Cultural Expressions (ICEs). We explored how these cultural elements are deeply tied to the history and spirituality of Indigenous communities and why it is crucial to safeguard them from misuse and exploitation. Respecting and protecting ICEs ensures that Indigenous communities maintain control over their cultural legacy and can benefit from their traditional knowledge and practices.

This week, we are learning about another essential topic: Data Sovereignty, particularly in the context of Inuit, Red River Metis and First Nations communities.

What is Data Sovereignty?

Data sovereignty refers to the principle that data is subject to the laws and governance structures within the nation where it is collected. For Indigenous communities, data sovereignty means having control over data that is about them, whether it’s health information, environmental data, or cultural knowledge. This concept is fundamental because it encompasses the right of First Nations, Red River Metis and Inuit peoples to own, access, and manage their own data in ways that best serve their interests and uphold their values.

“When Indigenous communities manage their own data, they can leverage it for tailored policies and initiatives that truly reflect their unique needs and aspirations,” said Jamie Bell, one of Niriqatiginnga’s founding members. When we interviewed him he said “This empowerment transforms data into a tool for cultural preservation, economic development, and self-governance.”

Why is data sovereignty important? Just like Indigenous Cultural Expressions, data about Indigenous communities holds significant value and can impact various aspects of life, from healthcare and education to economic development and self-governance. Proper control over this data is vital to ensure its integrity, security, and proper use.

“Historically, data on Indigenous communities has often been collected without consent, leading to misinterpretation and misuse,” explained Jamie Bell. “Embracing data sovereignty works to correct these imbalances, allowing First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples to own, access, and control their data.”

He continued: “In many instances, data about Indigenous communities has been collected and stored by external entities, often without appropriate consent or understanding of the cultural context. This has sometimes led to misinterpretation, misuse, or exploitation of the data, further marginalizing already vulnerable peoples and communities.”

By exercising data sovereignty, Red River Metis, Inuit and First Nations communities can:

  • Ensure accurate representation. When communities manage their data, they can ensure that it accurately reflects their circumstances, needs, and aspirations. This helps in creating better policies and programs tailored to their specific context.
  • Protect sensitive information. Data sovereignty ensures that sensitive information, such as health records or traditional knowledge, is protected and accessible only to those who have the right to see it. This is crucial for maintaining trust and respecting privacy.
  • Promote self-governance. Having control over their data empowers Indigenous communities to make informed decisions and strengthen their self-governance. They can set priorities, allocate resources, and assess the outcomes of their initiatives based on reliable data.
  • Facilitate economic opportunities. Data is a valuable asset in today’s digital economy. By managing their data, Indigenous communities can leverage it for economic development, research collaborations, and partnerships that benefit their people.

In Canada, efforts are being made to recognize and support Indigenous data sovereignty. Organizations like the First Nations Information Governance Centre (FNIGC) are working to promote the rights of Indigenous communities to govern their data through the principles of OCAP—Ownership, Control, Access, and Possession.

So, let’s remember: Understanding and respecting data sovereignty is a crucial step toward acknowledging the rights of Indigenous peoples and supporting their path to self-determination. By ensuring that Indigenous communities have control over their data, we contribute to a more equitable and just society.

See you next week.

About our summer programming

Our program activities this summer are supported by a grant from the Indigenous Intellectual Property Program (IIPP) with Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada. The program is designed to support increased engagement in the IP system by Indigenous peoples in Canada. The grant funds eligible Indigenous organizations to support participation in World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) sessions, small-scale initiatives and projects related to intellectual property (IP), Indigenous Knowledge (IK) and Indigenous Cultural Expressions (ICEs). This summer’s Niriqatiginnga Youth, Arts and Media Team activities are also supported by Manitoba Agriculture and the Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership, the OpenAI Researcher Access Program, Agri-Food and Agriculture Canada and the Government of Canada’s Youth Employment Skills Program.

Picture of Youth, Arts and Media Team

Youth, Arts and Media Team

The Youth, Arts and Media Team supports participatory food security research, arts and organizational development. Through this program, funded by Agriculture Canada and the Government of Canada's Youth Employment Skills Strategy, Indigenous youth artists and early career communicators receive training and exposure to various forms of media and communication roles. Activities build career and job skills, supporting outreach, relationship development and engagement. There is a strong emphasis on food sector and digital literacy and training youth in the design and delivery of health and food security interventions that promote healthy messages.

Read our 2024 Summer Update

The Youth Employment and Skills Program (YESP) will contribute approximately $13.5 million to projects that employ youth and youth facing barriers. Each project will be eligible to receive up to $14,000 in matching funds to employ one (1) employee. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is one of several Government of Canada departments participating in the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy.

Driven by Youth and Volunteers

As a community program, nurturing the skills, knowledge, and networks of our future leaders, this unique, pilot program contributes beyond the success of its participants. It also aims to lay foundations for sustainable and impactful business and entrepreneurship programming.

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