Tri-Agency Policy on Legal Assistance and Indemnification Provisions for Volunteers Serving on External Advisory Bodies

Effective Date: April 1, 2016


This policy applies to all volunteers external to the Government of Canada and appointed by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (the Agencies) to serve on external advisory bodies on a long-term or temporary (ad hoc) basis.


The Agencies are ultimately responsible and accountable for any decision resulting from the advice received from volunteers and the advisory bodies on which they serve. Consequently, volunteers cannot be held liable for decisions taken by the Agencies.


External Advisory Body: A volunteer group consisting of individuals with a broad range of national and international subject matter expertise, knowledge and experience who act collectively in advising the Agencies in support of research excellence.

External advisory bodies include: adjudication committees, selection committees, expert panels, monitoring committees, contest juries, advisory boards, working groups, reference groups and all other advisory bodies established with volunteer members. They provide the Agencies with expert advice from individuals who have valuable knowledge, expertise, or experience. The advice may relate to scientific, technical, policy or program matters, including but not limited to peer/merit review, research ethics and the responsible conduct of research.

Policy Objective:

The objective of this policy is to define the terms under which individuals who participate in external advisory bodies for the Agencies are eligible for legal assistance and indemnification.

Policy Statement:

The Agencies undertake to provide volunteer members of their advisory bodies with legal assistance and protection against civil liability, provided the volunteer acts in good faith within the scope of the prescribed volunteer duties, does not act against the interests of the Crown and does not otherwise have available such protection.


A volunteer facing any claim, action, suit or proceeding brought about as a result of service to the Agencies as an advisory body member must promptly contact the advisory body's secretariat (or other appropriate agency representative) to discuss the matter. The agency will not be liable to indemnify the volunteer for payment of any legal claims or reimbursement for payment of legal assistance or legal claims unless it has consented to do so.