Principles of Ethical Conduct


The Canadian Archaeological Association (CAA) is committed to the promotion, protection, and conservation of archaeological heritage in Canada, as well as the advancement and dissemination of archaeological knowledge. The CAA and its members recognize the diverse interests, voices, and perspectives that inform archaeological interpretation, knowledge building, and the dissemination of information. In this document we respect and encourage the use of terminology as determined appropriate by the Indigenous community or communities. The archaeological record in Canada is predominantly that of Indigenous peoples. In this document, the term Indigenous peoples is used in reference to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit as recognized in s. 35 of the Canadian Constitution. We acknowledge the depth and breadth of the archaeological record and its far-reaching significance for Indigenous peoples and descendant populations. Accordingly, members of the CAA will conduct their activities according to the ethics and standards of scholarly practice, with a commitment to safety and non-discrimination, and will recognize the interests of those who may be socially, spiritually, or materially impacted by their work. We also recognize that heritage legislation across Canada remains deeply colonial. While all archaeologists should strive to comply with the spirit of the ethical principles, the CAA acknowledges that there are tensions between supporting Indigenous self-determination and complying with current heritage legislation and regulatory frameworks. We encourage all members to advocate for and work towards bringing existing legislation in line with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

Members of the Association agree to abide by the following principles:

Professional Responsibilities

Archaeological sites and remains are finite, fragile, non-renewable and unique.  Before undertaking responsibility for any excavation that impacts an archaeological site or remains, members of the CAA must:

  • Keep up to date on developments in archaeological methods;
  • Possess adequate training, support, resources and facilities to undertake excavation and analysis;
  • Present the results of archaeological investigation in a timely and accessible manner;
  • Preserve all documentation about archaeological investigation in a public archive with appropriate protocols for access;
  • Comply with local protocols of Indigenous peoples in or outside of Canada;
  • Comply with all appropriate archaeological legislation and international conventions regarding archaeological heritage;
  • Respect colleagues and collaborators and cooperate with them in a collegial manner that fosters positive work environments and benefits research goals, professional development and partnerships;
  • Recognize that documentation of any archaeological investigation should, within a reasonable period of time, become available to others with legitimate research interests;

Indigenous Rights and Reconciliation in Canada

Recognizing that when European settlers first arrived, First Nations and Inuit had established homelands that were thousands of years old and their activities created a major portion of the archaeological record in Canada, and recognizing that archaeology as a discipline has historically excluded and continues to exclude Indigenous peoples, the CAA is committed to working towards reconciliation.

CAA members will:

Indigenous Interests:

  • Support, through their actions and recommendations, Indigenous peoples’ right to maintain, control, protect, and develop their cultural heritage.
  • Engage with Indigenous peoples and communities and make every reasonable effort to obtain free, prior, and informed consent from relevant Indigenous peoples prior to conducting archaeological investigation of Indigenous cultural sites and material remains.
  • Respect, understand, and be mindful that archaeological evidence is a critical factor in the legal recognition and implementation of Indigenous rights and title;
  • Acknowledge that Indigenous peoples have an inherent and unique relationship with their archaeological heritage;
  • Respect Indigenous approaches to protection, conservation, and interpretation of that heritage;
  • Make every effort to engage, cooperate, collaborate and/or partner with the relevant Indigenous peoples and communities on any archaeological work involving Indigenous archaeological sites, or sites that include an Indigenous component, including historic sites;
  • Learn and respect the cultural protocols of Indigenous peoples and communities relating to the conduct of archaeological activities dealing with Indigenous culture and/or on Indigenous lands;
  • Encourage all levels of government to engage with Indigenous peoples and communities to amend policies and legislation so that Indigenous rights to control and protect their archaeological/material heritage are consistent with the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Calls to Action;

Collaborations and Strengthening Capacities:

  • Encourage mutually beneficial partnerships with Indigenous peoples, communities, and organizations to undertake archaeological research, management, and education, based on respect and mutual sharing of knowledge and expertise;
  • Work to co-develop protocols for archaeological projects or work;
  • Provide opportunities for education and training whenever possible for all archaeological staff in their employ on Indigenous rights, history, and treaties, and the legacy of residential schools;
  • Invite Indigenous people to participate on archaeological projects and make every reasonable effort to hire and train Indigenous people to conduct not only archaeological fieldwork, but also labwork analysis, interpretation of archaeological data, and writing of reports;
  • Support formal training programs in archaeology for Indigenous people;

Cultural Places and Traditional Knowledges:

  • Respect Indigenous, provincial, territorial, and federal standards, principles, protocols, and/or laws and regulations governing the investigation, removal, curation, and repatriation of Indigenous ancestors’ remains and associated objects;
  • Recognize that the traditional knowledge of Indigenous peoples is an important way of understanding the past;
  • Recognize and respect the unique relationships, including spiritual ones, that exist between Indigenous peoples and special places and features on the landscape;
  • Always treat Indigenous sacred sites, places, and objects with respect and caution, and avoid as much as possible the use of methods and techniques that could alter or damage such sites, places, and objects;
  • Recognize the importance of repatriation of archaeological collections for Indigenous peoples and descendant populations, and assist with repatriation requests;

Communication and Interpretation:

  • Respect the value of oral history and traditional knowledge in the interpretation and presentation of the past;
  • Communicate the results of archaeological investigations to Indigenous peoples and organizations in a timely and accessible manner; and
  • Respectfully balance the perspectives and interpretations that Indigenous peoples have about the past with those of archaeologists.


We expect that the members of the CAA will exercise respect for archaeological remains and for those who share an interest in this irreplaceable material culture now and in the future. The archaeological record includes in-situ archaeological materials and sites, data, documents and records of investigation, artifact collections, and reports. Stewardship involves caring for and promoting the conservation of the archaeological record and collaborating with Indigenous peoples, descendant populations, and non-Indigenous community members and other stakeholders whenever possible, to make decisions about how to care for and interpret material culture. As stewards, archaeologists do not own the archaeological record they excavate or study, particularly in the case of human remains and associated objects. CAA members acknowledge that:

  • Access to knowledge from the past is an essential part of the heritage of all Canadians, but particularly those who have a historical or cultural connection to it;
  • Equitable stewardship of archaeological heritage is a critical aspect of redressing the historical exclusion of peoples and their descendants from understandings and ownership of the past;
  • Human remains are to be cared for and protected by Indigenous peoples and Canadians and should be treated with respect and dignity and studied in collaboration with the descendant population;
  • Conservation is paramount and where conservation is not an option, excavations should be no more invasive/destructive than determined to mitigate circumstances or comprehensive research goals;
  • Permit holders/Project directors/Principal investigators must ensure accurate documentation of all archaeological findings and timely reporting of the results of any archaeological investigation; and
  • The CAA opposes the commodification of archaeological sites and artifacts through selling and trading, even in the absence of statutes.

Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Safety

Members of the CAA recognize their responsibilities to keep their work spaces free of discrimination and harassment and to promote equity, diversity and inclusivity in our practice. CAA members will adhere to the CAA Anti-harassment Policy and Procedures.

CAA members recognize that:

  • Students and early career archaeologists can be particularly vulnerable to various forms of harassment in field and other contexts; and
  • Individuals may face barriers and discrimination on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, disability or pardoned conviction, which can impact their ability to participate in archaeology.

CAA members will actively work to:

  • Ensure the safety and security of all who participate in archaeological activities;
  • Remove or mitigate systemic barriers to encourage more diverse participation in the discipline; and
  • Promote archaeology as a profession to under-represented groups in order to diversify the discipline.

Public Education and Outreach

A fundamental commitment to stewardship is the sharing of knowledge about archaeological topics to a broader public and to enlist public support for stewardship. Members of the CAA are encouraged to:

  • Communicate the results of archaeological work to a broad audience through various media;
  • Encourage the public to support and participate in archaeological stewardship;
  • Engage with organizations and individuals who participate in avocational archaeology
  • Actively cooperate with Indigenous people in the stewardship of their material culture;
  • Promote public interest in and knowledge of archaeology in Canada;
  • Explain appropriate archaeological methods and techniques to interested people;
  • Promote archaeology through education;
  • Support and be accessible to local archaeological and other heritage groups;
  • Promote and integrate reconciliation and social justice into their communications.