UBC releases Indigenous finance guidelines after finance system called 'a hindrance' to working with Indigenous communities

UBC’s Indigenous Research Support Initiative (IRSI) implemented new finance guidelines after a multi-years process, allowing Indigenous contractors and artists to be compensated more easily.

Over the past several years, members of Indigenous communities who worked with UBC in some capacity have had difficulties receiving appropriate and timely payment, to the point where some labeled the issue as “a hindrance” to working with Indigenous communities.

In response, the IRSI has been working in partnership with the VP Finance and in consultation with Indigenous community members to produce new guidelines that are more accommodating to Indigenous workers.

Part of the problem until now has been that UBC finance guidelines require personal information that many members of Indigenous communities do not feel comfortable sharing due to a history of mistreatment by different institutions.

According to Lerato Chondoma, the assistant director of the IRSI, a prior lack of finance guidelines specific to Indigenous contractors meant that “almost every unit had some kind of workaround [to official guidelines], in order to be able to work with their [Indigenous] partners in good ways … in order to make sure that they were paid equitably, but appropriately.”

Chondoma said IRSI believed that if workarounds within individual units are possible then “why couldn’t we make it an official process?”

Development of the guidelines started with a conversation with elders from the Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish nations to highlight the injustice and harm that the previous compensation process was causing and to understand some of the challenges that they'd experienced.

The guidelines were then created in close collaboration and consultation with Indigenous community members through several piloting and modification stages to ensure efficiency and efficacy.

Chondoma expressed deep gratitude to Indigenous community members for their trust and willingness to contribute to the development of the guidelines.

“Every couple of months, [IRSI] got to be in with the community and get in real time feedback to the forum and the process … Being able to have those trust relationships where people felt like they could come and be really open and clear about one of the workarounds [was integral to the production process].”

Chondoma added that she hoped these new guidelines will help the reconciliation process.

“[I hope these guidelines] signal [a] willingness for an institution to view Indigenous partners and peoples as equals … as worthy of being recognized for their expertise, their knowledge and their time.”

As of the beginning of 2022, the new Indigenous finance guidelines are in effect, have already been implemented and are accessible through the IRSI website.

Chondoma said she is currently in “conversations with graduate students who are looking to have guidance about how to compensate indigenous members on their … dissertation committees.”

“This has to continue to be an iterative process … [we have to] continue to develop those guidelines.”