First Nation communities across Canada are taking their data, and their power back by implementing OCAP® Principles. Learn what this means for HelpSeeker’s Systems Mapping initiatives and ways to learn about OCAP® for data and research.

HelpSeeker Technologies helps communities solve complex social issues through technology, data innovation and social research. Part of this process involves an approach called “Systems Mapping” which is an inventory of all of Canada’s social safety net of programs, services, benefits and helplines located within our “HelpSeeker” navigation App. The app is designed to help anyone, anywhere in Canada to find the help they need in the fastest amount of time-based on location.

Many service providers and individuals are using the free app every day to find help and support for themselves or others. The HelpSeeker system map enables backend subscribers to access “social ecosystem data” and “community data” the app produces which can contribute to systemic social planning and decision making.

In early 2021, HelpSeeker was contracted by the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) to do a Systems Mapping project with a focus on First Nations Housing and homelessness supports across Canada. Systems Mapping of these services was required for both on and off reserve. So, our Systems Mapping team started doing what they do best to map the social sector of on-reserve nations through publicly available information found online.

Implementing OCAP®

We quickly realized that to do this work ethically we needed to implement the principles of OCAP® (Ownership, Control, Access, Possession) to the highest level. Our entire organization engaged in OCAP® training directly through First Nations Information Governance Centre (FNIGC). Understanding the principles of OCAP® equipped us to respectfully engage with First Nations communities and give them the comfort needed to participate and enter their programs/services into formal systems mapping though data sharing agreements. These agreements are flexible towards the First Nation’s best interests.

Each First Nations Government and leadership decides how the data is collected, where and what their data is used for. We implemented OCAP® by creating data sharing agreements and a path to opt-in to systems mapping with transparency, permission, benefits and mutual understanding. We provided our data creating technology and mechanism to First Nations communities to use and benefit from freely and waived any fees typically required for access. This allows them to create community-level data that can be leveraged to increase social service infrastructure.

Ethical Research and Data Collection

The principles of OCAP® exist to create an ethical mechanism to protect First Nations data by providing First Nations Communities with all rights to data that is about them. This includes getting permission to collect the data or do any type of research. OCAP® exists to reduce harm that has historically been inflicted onto First Nations Peoples and communities by the collection, sharing and selling of their information.

Through our deeper learning and understanding from OCAP® training we decided not to add on-reserve First Nations programs and services onto our systems map.

Data tells a story, and for too long the government and researchers have been telling us what the narrative of First Nations Peoples is. Part of reconciliation is ensuring First Nations Peoples control, access and use their own data to tell their own story.

Promoting Reconciliation and First Nations Sovereignty

Deeper learning of OCAP® principles has strengthened HelpSeeker’s commitment to First Nations sovereignty and reconciliation. We do not use the data created from this community for our own purposes, and we aim to dismantle systems of oppression.

What Are the Takeaways From All of This?

  • The principles of OCAP® were invented for a very important reason, they bring a mechanism of safety, protection and preservation to our First Nations’ Peoples and communities in Canada.
  • For anyone that works with First Nations Peoples or communities directly or indirectly, please get better informed about OCAP®.
  • Take the training through FNIGC, and make sure to align your objective and research.
  • To honour and implement OCAP® principles to the highest level is to advance, and ethically contribute towards truth and reconciliation.