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Frequently Asked Questions about the Self-identification Questionnaire

About the questionnaire:

  • The initial 2018 questionnaire was a first step—a starting point. The revised questionnaire includes more questions and response options. Additional diversity dimensions could be added in the future.
  • The questions, response options, and related definitions are primarily based on material and terminology that is being used elsewhere in the federal government.
  • Should the terminology used elsewhere in the federal government change, or if future consultations indicate a need for revisions, then the agencies may also change the terminology or wording in the questionnaire.
  • These FAQ were recently revised to correspond with the updated version of the Tri-agency self-identification questionnaire. All agencies are planning to implement the updated questionnaire over the course of 2021-2022.

Contents

  1. Why am I being asked to complete the self-identification questionnaire?
  2. Who is required to complete the questionnaire?
  3. When was the questionnaire launched?
  4. Why has the questionnaire been revised?
  5. Is this a Tri-agency initiative?
  6. Can I identify in more than one group?
  7. I have already provided my self-identification data to my institution and/or other federal research funding agencies. Why am I being asked to self-identify again?
  8. Why are these particular questions asked?
  9. How was the terminology in the questionnaire chosen?
  10. Age — Can you clarify what is being asked?
  11. Gender identity — Can you clarify what is being asked?
  12. Sexual orientation — Can you clarify what is being asked?
  13. Indigenous identity — Can you clarify what is being asked?
  14. Members of visible minorities — Can you clarify what is being asked?
  15. Population group — Can you clarify what is being asked?
  16. Disability — Can you clarify what is being asked?
  17. Language — Can you clarify what is being asked?
  18. I am not comfortable responding to these questions. What should I do?
  19. How will my information be used? How will it be stored?
  20. Who will see my information? Will peer reviewers be able to access this information?
  21. Will my responses be tied to funding decisions in any way?
  22. Can I make changes to my questionnaire after it has been completed and submitted?
  23. How often will this Tri-agency questionnaire be revised?
  24. Who can I contact for more information or to provide feedback?

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1. Why am I being asked to complete the self-identification questionnaire?

The collection of self-identification data is a central piece of the agencies' commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI). This data provides information on the diversity of the population applying for and receiving agency funds and participating in peer and merit review. This information increases the granting agencies' capacity to monitor their progress on increasing EDI in their programs, to recognize and remove barriers, and to design new measures to achieve greater EDI in the research enterprise.

2. Who is required to complete the questionnaire?

The agencies are increasingly requiring anyone who applies to their programs - applicants to funding opportunities and participants in the review process, as well as advisory/governance board members - to complete the self-identification questionnaire.

3. When was the questionnaire launched?

A harmonized Tri-agency questionnaire was first launched in mid-2018.

4. Why has the questionnaire been revised?

The questionnaire has been revised in light of legal requirements, new legislation, and feedback from the research community. For example, the 2019 Addendum to the 2006 human rights settlement agreement pertaining to the Canada Research Chairs Program requires revisions to the self-identification form to collect data on nominees and chairholders who identify with LGBTQ2+ communities or who identify as white.

5. Is this a Tri-agency initiative?

Yes. The questionnaire was first developed collaboratively by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). The revised Tri-agency questionnaire was developed in collaboration with the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and is now harmonized across the three agencies and CFI.

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6. Can I identify in more than one group?

Individuals can and should self-identify in relation to all dimensions covered by the questionnaire (see Why are these particular questions asked). Some questions allow individuals to select more than one response option whereas others, for data integrity and reportability reasons, limit individuals to one response option.

7. I have already provided my self-identification data to my institution and/or other federal research funding agencies. Why am I being asked to self-identify again?

In accordance with the Privacy Act, government institutions must collect personal information such as self-identification information directly from the individual. The government institution must inform the individual of the specific purposes for collecting their personal information and how it can be used and disclosed, and must obtain their consent for the collection. Also, there may be differences in the way questions are asked by different organizations, and responses provided by individuals can change over time.

8. Why are these particular questions asked?

The questionnaire covers eight dimensions: age, gender identity, sexual orientation, Indigenous identity, visible minority identity, population group, disability and language. While the questionnaire does not include every important diversity dimension, these eight dimensions cover aspects of identity that are generally recognized as being impacted by bias and discrimination in the postsecondary research sector.

When first launched in 2018, the questionnaire included the four designated groups (FDGs) as identified by the Employment Equity Act due to their underrepresentation in the Canadian labour force: women, persons with disabilities, Indigenous peoples and members of visible minorities.

See also: Why has the questionnaire been revised?

9. How was the terminology in the questionnaire chosen?

The questions are primarily based on the current standards used by Statistics Canada in census questionnaires, and wording from federal legislation, including the Employment Equity Act and Accessible Canada Act. For some of the new or revised questions, current federal standards are either not available or not being used as they would not suit the specific uses of this self-identification form (see Why am I being asked to complete the self-identification questionnaire?). The wording in the questions is based on research and analysis of current approaches to self-identification, as well as targeted engagement with stakeholders and experts. The terminology and approach to the questions seek to balance inclusion, respect for privacy and reportability.

The agencies recognize that, for certain identities, terminology is not universally agreed upon and continues to evolve. Feedback is welcomed. See Who can I contact for more information or to provide feedback?

10. Age — Can you clarify what is being asked?

The age question asks for your date or year of birth, depending on the agency. This information distinguishes users with the same or similar names, and helps the program to identify individuals who may have duplicate personal identification numbers (PINs).

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11. Gender identity — Can you clarify what is being asked?

The gender identity question asks you to indicate the identity (or term) that best describes you at the present time. The question does not ask about sex assigned at birth or sexual orientation.

"Gender identity" refers to a person’s internal sense of being a woman, man, both, neither or somewhere along the gender spectrum. It influences how people perceive themselves and each other, how they act and interact and the distribution of power and resources in society. The question recognizes that gender identity can change over time.

The gender identity categories offered as potential responses represent the considerable diversity in how individuals and groups understand, experience and express gender identity. It is recognized that some of the response options may overlap. You are encouraged to choose the response that best represents you.

The response options for this question are defined as follows:

  • Gender fluid refers to a person whose gender identity or expression changes or shifts along the gender spectrum.
  • Man refers to a person who internally identifies and/or publicly expresses as a man. This may include cisgender and transgender individuals. Cisgender means that one's gender identity matches one's sex assigned at birth.
  • Nonbinary refers to a person whose gender identity does not align with a binary understanding of gender such as man or woman.
  • Trans man refers to a person whose sex assigned at birth is female, and who identifies as a man.
  • Trans woman refers to a person whose sex assigned at birth is male, and who identifies as a woman.
  • Two-Spirit is a term used by some North American Indigenous people to indicate a person who embodies both female and male spirits or whose gender identity, sexual orientation or spiritual identity is not limited by the male/female dichotomy.
  • Woman refers to a person who internally identifies and/or publicly expresses as a woman. This may include cisgender and transgender individuals. Cisgender means that one's gender identity matches one's sex assigned at birth.

12. Sexual orientation — Can you clarify what is being asked?

The sexual orientation question asks you to select how you currently identify.

The response options for this question are defined as follows:

  • Asexual refers to a person who identifies as feeling very little or no sexual desire.
  • Bisexual refers to a person who identifies as being sexually attracted to people of their sex and/or gender and people of a different sex and/or gender.
  • Gay refers to a person who identifies as being sexually attracted to people of their sex and/or gender.
  • Heterosexual refers to a person who identifies as sexually attracted to people of a different sex and/or gender.
  • Lesbian refers to a person who identifies as a woman and as being sexually attracted to women.
  • Pansexual refers to a person who identifies as being sexually attracted to another person regardless of their sex or gender.
  • Queer refers to a person whose sexual orientation differs from the normative binary vision of sexuality.
  • Two-Spirit is a term used by some North American Indigenous people to indicate a person who identifies as embodying both female and male spirits or whose gender identity, sexual orientation or spiritual identity is not limited by the male/female dichotomy.

13. Indigenous identity — Can you clarify what is being asked?

The Indigenous identity question asks you if you identify as an Indigenous person. In Canada, an Indigenous person is someone who identifies as First Nation, Métis, or Inuk (Inuit). This question is about personal identity, not legal status or registration.

14. Members of visible minorities — Can you clarify what is being asked?

The visible minority identity question asks you to indicate if you identify as a member of a visible minority, as defined by the Employment Equity Act. The Act defines visible minorities as "persons, other than Aboriginal peoples, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour."

15. Population group — Can you clarify what is being asked?

The population group options listed are those used by Statistics Canada in the national census. Population group should not be confused with citizenship or nationality. You may select all categories that apply.

If you have already identified as an Indigenous person and do not identify with any other population group, you are asked to select "population group not listed above" and specify Indigenous.

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16. Disability — Can you clarify what is being asked?

The disability question asks you to indicate whether you personally identify as having a disability, according to the definition provided by the Accessible Canada Act. According to the Act, disability means any impairment, including a physical, mental, intellectual, cognitive, learning, communication or sensory impairment—or a functional limitation—whether permanent, temporary or episodic in nature, or evident or not, that in interaction with a barrier, hinders a person’s full and equal participation in society. You may select all categories that apply.

The question does not ask whether you have ever qualified for a disability benefit under the Canada Pension Plan or other program. It also does not take into consideration whether you have received accommodations.

17. Language — Can you clarify what is being asked?

The language question asks you to identify which language you first learned and which language you use most often at home. You may select all categories that apply.

The question does not ask which language you prefer to use to communicate with the agencies or in which language you submit an application. This information is collected elsewhere in the application process.

18. I am not comfortable responding to these questions. What should I do?

If you do not want to self-identify, you have the option to choose “I prefer not to answer” for each question. You must select this option and save your responses for your questionnaire to be marked as complete. Doing so fulfills the mandatory requirement for completing the questionnaire.

19. How will my information be used? How will it be stored?

The self-identification information is collected, used, disclosed, retained and disposed of in accordance with the Privacy Act. Some details of how data will be used are specific to each agency. Consult the privacy statement that accompanies your agency's questionnaire. Self-identification statistics will always be reported in aggregate form to ensure confidentiality.

To protect the privacy of individuals, if the number of individuals who selected a specific response option is less than five, the data will not be publicly reported.

Appropriate privacy notices are provided and consent is obtained when self-identification information is collected.

For further information on how self-identification information is / will be used and stored by the program, contact staff directly at:

NSERC: nseequity-equitesng@NSERC-CRSNG.GC.CA

SSHRC: equity-equite@sshrc-crsh.gc.ca

CIHR: edi@cihr-irsc.gc.ca

CFI: edi@innovation.ca

For privacy-related issues, or where someone wishes to remain anonymous, contact Access to Information Act and Privacy (ATIP) staff at:

NSERC: ATIP-AIPRP@NSERC-CRSNG.GC.CA

SSHRC: ATIP-AIPRP@SSHRC-CRSH.GC.CA

CIHR: ATIPCoordinator@cihr-irsc.gc.ca

CFI: atip-aiprp@innovation.ca

See also: Who will see my information? Will peer reviewers be able to access this information? and Will my responses be tied to funding decisions in any way?

20. Who will see my information? Will peer reviewers be able to access this information?

Access to these data is strictly limited to a small number of agency staff with the appropriate training and security clearance and on a need-to-know basis. Self-identification information is not part of your application and will be neither accessible to, nor shared with, external reviewers and/or selection committee members.

In addition to their program monitoring, the agencies share aggregated self-identification data.

See also: How will my information be used? How will it be stored?

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21. Will my responses be tied to funding decisions in any way?

Choosing to self-identify or not will have no consequences for an application. In funding opportunities where the agency may offer special consideration for members of a specific population group, you will be asked to provide your consent separately to use your self-identification information for that purpose.

See also: Why am I being asked to complete the self-identification questionnaire?

22. Can I make changes to my questionnaire after it has been completed and submitted?

Yes. Self-identification information can be changed at any time. However, you will only be prompted to provide information at the time of submitting an application. Committee members or peer reviewers will be prompted when they begin each new reviewing role.

23. How often will this Tri-agency questionnaire be revised?

The agencies monitor the development of new standards for the collection of self-identification information by such agencies as Statistics Canada, and will update their practices with new standards as appropriate.

24. Who can I contact for more information or to provide feedback?

The agencies welcome feedback from the research community on all aspects of this questionnaire. You may provide suggestions or comments by contacting agency staff at

NSERC: nseequity-equitesng@NSERC-CRSNG.GC.CA

SSHRC: equity-equite@sshrc-crsh.gc.ca

CIHR: edi@cihr-irsc.gc.ca

CFI: edi@innovation.ca


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