Human Research Ethics

The Human Research Ethics Board (HREB) ensures that UVic research and research occurring in academic courses involving human participants or human biological materials meets the ethical standards required by Canadian universities and national regulatory bodies.

The research ethics staff can provide research ethics advice, education, and up-to-date regulatory information. We make presentations to classes and offer individual and project-specific guidance to you and your students.

UVic-RAIS Guidelines & Tutorials 


December 13, from 9:00 am-11:00 am - RAIS will be updated with improvements. We strongly suggest that you avoid making changes to your application during this window to avoid losing usaved changes. There will be no interruptions to your ability to sign in and view applications.

Research Ethics is online - UVic-RAIS

    Online System for Human Research Ethics  

    Important changes for faculty supervisors of students and student researchers

Starting on December 19, post-approval forms (amendments, renewals, completions, unanticipated events reports) will be available online for all studies approved through the RAIS system.  

For any active ethics approvals for studies approved under the paper-based system, please continue to submit annual renewal, modifications, project completions and unanticipated event reports using paper forms from the research ethics website. 

Please contact Human Research Ethics Office at or 250-472-4545  if you have any questions.

Course-based application deadlines

Deadlines for submitting course-based ethics applications for course-based research assignments

Human Research Ethics Board - Membership list

BC Ethics Harmonization - Research Ethics BC (REBC)

Effective January 1, 2019, research ethics applications for all studies that involve UVic and at least  one additonal BC university ethics board or BC health authority ethics board (including Island Health), must be submitted through the Provincial Research Ethics Platform (PREP). Please contact HRE office, 250-472-4545 for more information.

BC Ethics Harmonization Initiative is now Research Ethics BC

   BC Ethics Harmonization - Information Sheet

   BC Ethics Harmonization - Update for Research Community

Contact - Human Research Ethics

If you have questions, or if you are new to research, please contact us before you begin your study to discuss whether you will require research ethics approval.

Phone: 250-472-4545 or 250-472-4321
Email: or
Fax: 250-721-8960

Address: Human Research Ethics, B202 Administrative Services Building, Office of Research Services, University of Victoria, PO Box 1700 STN CSC,  Victoria, BC, Canada V8W 2Y2

UVic faculty, students and staff must obtain research ethics approval from the UVic Human Research Ethics Board (HREB) if their research involves human participants and/or human biological materials.

UVic HREB approval must be obtained before starting the research. See below for types of human research exempt from ethics approval.

Who must apply?

Most faculty, students and staff planning to conduct research involving humans are required to obtain ethical approval for their study.

What requires human ethics approval?

The following table shows which studies require approval and which form to complete (see “How do I apply?” tab), based upon key characteristics of your research.

If you are not sure whether your research project requires ethics approval, we urge you to contact us as soon as possible to discuss. For graduate students in particular, failing to obtain research ethics approval could have serious implications for your thesis or dissertation defense and your ability to graduate. 

Approval required

Ethics approval is required for projects that involve but are not limited to the following:
  • Surveys, questionnaires (in-person, online, web)
  • Interviews (in-person, Skype, phone)
  • Group discussions/focus groups
  • Observations in non-public venues (permission for access required e.g., classroooms, meetings)
  • Autobiographical and auto-ethnographic studies, self-reflective studies
  • Audio-recording people in the above
  • Video-recording people in the above
  • Taking notes of people in the above
  • Engagement with people and their information via Facebook, social media
  • Using EEGs, MRI, devices and apps on people
  • Using protected databases and data where you must apply for access/permission from hospitals, institutions, companies
  • Using protected or confidential reports and information where you must apply for access/permission from organizations, companies
  • Biological materials you collect or receive from other researchers such as cells, blood, urine, sweat.

Online posts from sites and groups that DO require a log-in, membership, etc. are not considered publicly accesible because there is a reasonable expectation of privacy by people in those groups and those sites. 

Please  contact us at  or 250-472-4545 if you are unsure whether your project requires research ethics approval.

Standard application

Most UVic research involving human participants requires research ethics review using the standard research ethics apllication found on the UVic-RAIS system. Please read the annotated guidelines before completing the  application.

Specialized application

specialized ethical review (application for use of anonymized data or anonymized biological materials) is permitted in very limited circumstances. It does not release researchers from any other applicable legal obligations such as protecting a person’s right to privacy, fulfilling copyright requirements, etc.

If your study does not meet the following requirements, you will need to submit the standard research ethics application using the UVic-RAIS system.

Research that may qualify for a specialized HREB ethical review:

  1. Research that is limited to analysis of anonymized secondary data. Anonymized data or information means “the information is irrevocably stripped of direct identifiers, a code is not kept to allow further re-linkage, and risk of re-identification of individuals from remaining indirect identifiers is low or very low” (Tri-Council Policy Statement 2, p. 57). All forms of data (usually databases) must be supplied to the researcher in completely anonymous formats. The anonymized data may be in the public domain (e.g., Statistics Canada) or not (e.g., collected by a professor who decides who may have access to the data).You may submit a specialized application form if you are being supplied anonymous data that has already been linked. However, if further information is required, we may require you to submit an ethics application form. Contact us at 250-472-4545 or  before submitting the specialized ethical review form if you are using linked data.


In addition to undergoing a standard human research ethics review, research procedures using microorganisms, recombinant DNA and human blood, tissues and fluids must be reviewed by the UVic biosafety committee. When applicable, human research ethics approval is conditional upon approval from the UVic Biosafety Committee.  Please contact our office at 250-472-4545 or  for more information.


IMPORTANT - Deadlines for course-based ethics applications

As part of their teaching strategies related to research, many instructors assign class projects and activities in which students must collect data from human participants. 

Course-based research assignments vary in scope, but they all include gathering data from human participants for class presentations, reports or other activities considered research within the discipline in which the course is taught. Please see the application for ethical review of course-based research and guidelines for course-based research.

BC Ethics Harmonization - Research Ethics BC (REBC)

For health researchers who must obtain multiple ethical clearances from separate BC research ethics boards a streamlined, coordinated system will help eliminate duplication and reduce time while ensuring that ethics obligations are met by researchers and review boards.

Effective January 1, 2019, research ethics applications for all studies that involve UVic and at least  one additional BC university ethics board or BC health authority ethics board (including Island Health), must be submitted through the Provincial Research Ethics Platform (PREP). Please contact HRE office, 250-472-4545 for more information.

Contact us at (250) 472-4545 or  if you are not sure which application form applies to your study.

Exemptions from Human Research Ethics

An application form is not required for:

  1. Research limited to the use of materials in the public domain and for which all applicable copyright, patent, or other legal requirements and approvals have been either fulfilled or received.
  2. Research that involves a living individual in the public arena, or is about an artist, based exclusively on publicly available information, documents, records, works, performance, or archival materials.
  3. Research involving observation of participants who are seeking public visibility, such as speakers at public political demonstrations, public meetings.
  4. Research that involved observations that: does not allow for the identification of the participants; does not involve staging or manipulating the setting/circumstances; and is conducted in an open setting (e.g., parking lot or public park).
  5. Research limited to activities that comprise quality assessment of services and programs, as outlined in the University of Victoria's Internal Guidelines for Quality Assessment of Services and Programs. (Please note these guidelines were developed by the following contributing offices: Office of Vice-President Research, University Secretary, Privacy Office, Office of Institutional Planning and Analysis, and applies to internal quality assurance, performance review or testing within the University of Victoria only.)  Ethical approval from the HREB may be required for activities that border on or may include elements of research. Determination of whether a quality assessment activity requires HREB approval will be made through consultation with the Chair of the HREB and if needed, the Director of Institutional Planning and Analysis.
  1. Research where the professor and student are co-investigators. Both the professor and the student must be named as co-investigators on the professor’s research ethics application form and the certificate of approval.
  2. Student research which does not deviate from professor’s HREB approved project that is active (e.g., ethics approval has not expired). Students must ask their supervisor or professor to contact eh research ethics office to add their named to the professor’s ethics approval.
  3. Research conducted by faculty and staff as an outside professional activity. This usually applies to a university member acting in their capacity as a private contractor, whether incorporated or not, in which case the university member is not eligible to seek research ethics approval from the UVic HREB. A research ethics application is not required only if:
    • No aspect of the research, from proposal to completion, is undertaken by asserting connection or affiliation with the University of Victoria (e.g., university title, the university logo, letterhead and name are not used).
    • The research is not conducted at the University of Victoria and does not use the University’s resources.
    • The results disseminated in the public domain do not indicate association with the University.
  4. Students conducting research outside the auspices of the University of Victoria and/or its academic programs. For example, students on work terms or co-op terms do not need to obtain HREB approval provided:
    • the research is entirely under the control of an outside agency that has no research affiliation with the University of Victoria;
    • the research is not directly supervised by University of Victoria faculty or staff;
    • the research conforms to the three criteria stated in item 3 above for faculty and staff; and
    • the student does not plan to use the research project or data for academic credit (e.g., a thesis or major project)

 *Online posts from websites, online groups that DO NOT require a log-in, membership, etc. are considered publicly accessible with no reasonable expectation of privacy.

For examples of activities that are exempt from human research ethics review and examples of research activities that require ethics review see here.

**Please verify with our office - (250) 472-4545 or

You must apply for and receive ethical approval before you begin your study and maintain the approval during recruitment and data collection.

  • Human Research Ethics Approval is required prior to the initiation of recruitment activities and the start of data collection phases of the study.
  • Human Research Ethics Approval is granted for one year and must be renewed annually as long as there is the potential for the researchers to be in contact with the participants; whether this is for ongoing recruitment or data collection, or for the dissemination of results to participants.
  • It is recommended that graduate students maintain approval until they have completed their defense and final revisions have been accepted.
  • Human Research Ethics Approval is required prior to the acquisition or use of human biological materials. Where applicable, Human Research Ethics Approval is conditional upon approval from the UVic biosafety committee.

If you plan to modify your study any time after receiving approval, you must apply for a Request for Modification and receive approval before implementing changes. This includes modifications implemented in response to an unanticipated issue or event. Unanticipated events or issues that may impact on the risk of harm to participants must be reported to the UVic Human Research Ethics Board, by submitting the Unanticipated Event Report immediately.

Submit via UVic-RAIS a completed application to our office. We will review your research study and contact you after it has been reviewed.

Once your study is reviewed and approved by the UVic Human Research Ethics Board (HREB) you will be certified to begin recruitment and data collection for your study.

If you're not sure whether your study needs research ethics approval please see the “Should I apply?” tab or contact us at or (250) 472-4545.

Applying for approval for a new project

Standard application form (used for most studies):

Consent form(s) to be attached to your full application form:

If applicable to your study, include these forms with your full application

  • Request to use deception form - For research involving the use of limited or partial disclosure about the research purpose or procedures in the consent process where full disclosure would render the research impossible.

Other application forms for new projects:

  • Anonymized Data or Anonymized Biological Materials Application (applies to limited, special categories of research)
  • Course-based research projects (faculty and instructors only).
  • BC Ethics Harmonization - Effective January 1, 2019, research ethics applications for all studies that involve UVic and at least one additonal BC university ethics board or BC health authority ethics board (including Island Health), must be submitted through the Provincial Research Ethics Platform (PREP). Please contact HRE office, 250-472-4545 for more information.

Contact us at 250-472-4545 or

Submit your application for a new project

Faculty and students log into the system with valid Netlink IDs. Faculty who supervise a student must grant access to an identified ethics application for a specific student. Students (and department staff) will not be able to access the identified ethics application without the faculty member/their supervisor.

  • Faculty/ Faculty Supervisor logs into the system to initiate an online ethics application.
  • Faculty/ Faculty Supervisor grants access to the identified application form to a specific student (and departmental secretary if needed).
  • Student (and supervisor) completes the ethics application form (reflecting the student's thesis, project, capstone project, or dissertation), uploads appendices and documents comprising the ethics package. 
  • Faculty/ Faculty Supervisor electronically forwards the ethics application to the department chair, director or dean for academic sign off within the system.
  • Chair, director, or dean completes sign off of the application within the online system thereby directly submitting the application to the research ethics office. 
  • Faculty/ Faculty Supervisor and student will receive notifications from the ethics office. Either will be able to submit revised ethics materials online and access the online application for reference. 
  • Please see the quick guide for starting and submitting a new research ethics application. 

After submitting your application for a new project

Applications are entered into the review queue on an ongoing basis. Time required to review your application depends on the volume of applications in our system. The beginning and end of the term are our busiest periods.

  • Standard applications: four to six weeks
  • Applications for use of anonymzied data and course based applications: two weeks

Receiving notification of approval

  • You will receive an email notification from UVic-RAIS with the results of the review and instructions to address any changes or clarifications if required.
  • After you have responded to the required changes or clarifications, we will review the revisions - usually within five working days.
  • You may receive an additional email if any items have not been addressed. Once the changes and/or clarifications are complete, you will receive the Notification of Approval and you may begin your research.
  • A Certificate of Ethical Approval with an expiry date of one year from the approval date, will be generated through UVic-RAIS and can be downloaded at any time. 

Post approval – renewal, modification, completion

Standard Post approval – renewal, modification, completion
  • Starting on December 19, post-approval forms (amendments, renewals, completions, unanticipated events reports) will be available online for all studies approved through the RAIS system.
  • For any active ethics approvals for studies approved under the paper-based system, please continue to submit annual renewal, modifications, project completions and unanticipated event reports using paper forms from the research ethics website.
  • Request for annual renewal form - Your study must have current ethics approval when you are recruiting, collecting data and/or there is still a possibility that you will contact participants. You will need to submit annual renewal until all interactions with participants are complete. It is recommended that graduate students maintain approval until they have completed their defense and final revisions have been accepted. If the annual renewal form is not submitted, Ethics Approval will expire on the most recent expiry date issued.
  • Request for Modification of an Approved Project - Submit this form when any modifications to the approved protocol are required or anticipated. Modifications to an approved protocol must be approved before being implemented, including modification in response to an unanticipated event or issue. If the Modification is extensive, or involves a modification to the original purpose of the research question, a new application may be required.
  • Notice of project completion form - Submit this form once recruitment and data collection and any other anticipated interactions with participants have concluded.

UVic guidelines and national best practices guidelines will help you think through the ethical dimensions of your study when preparing your ethics application.

If you are new to research, your study is complex, or there are potential risks to research participants, research ethics and completing a research ethics application can be challenging. Feel free to contact us at or 250-472-4545.

UVic guidelines

Privacy resources

National guidelines, tutorial and best practices

Tri-Council Policy Statement (TCPS2) - Adopted by Canadian universities, most hospitals, health authorities and research institutions

Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)

National ethics associations and organizations

US and international codes of ethics and regulatory bodies

Ethics Forms, Templates and Samples

Form Guidelines Notes

Effective July 30, 2018 you can submit your standard application through UVic-RAIS

Important changes for faculty supervisors and student researchers

Annotated guidelines

Dual-Role Research Guidelines

See consent form templates and other sample documents below.

BC Ethics Harmonization - Information Sheet

Research in Health Care settings - Information Sheet

Effective July 30, 2018 you can submit your course-based application through UVic-RAIS

Course-based Guidelines Deadlines for course-based ethics applications

Effective July 30, 2018 you can submit your anonymized data application through UVic-RAIS

Important changes for faculty supervisors and student researchers

  Notice for Replacement of "Waiver Application" with "Application for Approval for Use of Anonymized Data or Biological Materials"
"In-principle Application" form has been replaced - Notice   The "In-principle application " form has been removed from the research ethics website
Unanticipated Events Report     To report any incidents, experiences, or outcomes that have not been previously accounted for in the approved protocol and which place participants, or others, at a greater risk. 
Dissolution of Joint UVic/Island Health REB - Notice   The Joint UVic/Island Health Research Ethics Board review process has been replaced with the BC Ethics Harmonization review model.


Request for Annual Renewal | RTF

Submit this form prior to the expiry date on your Certificate of Approval to ensure current research ethics approval for recruitment, data collection, or other interactions with participants.


Request for Modification | RTF


Submit this form before implementing changes to your protocol.

See consent form templates and other sample documents below.

Notice of Project Completion | PDF   POST-APPROVAL
Submit this form once recruitment, data collection, or other interactions with participants have concluded.
Request to use deception form | RTF   For research involving the use of limited or partial disclosure in the consent process.


Templates and guidance documents

Consent Form Template  | PDF

Point-form Consent Form Template Word  | PDF

Letter of Information for Implied Consent Template | PDF 

Consent Form Checklist | PDF | RTF - important when devising your own template

Confidentiality Template |PDF

Recruitment Poster Guidance Document

The University of Victoria is committed to supporting our researchers in their intellectual pursuits while also recognizing the need to protect the rights and interests of individuals who participate in UVic research, and those of the public.

For this reason, UVic policies and procedures governing human-related research uphold the highest ethical standards and are designed to be in accordance with Canada's Tri-Council Policy Statement on the Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS2).

It is vital that UVic researchers understand their responsibilities to both the university and the public. Please familiarize yourself with these policies before starting your research.

Federal Policies:

How long does the ethics review process take?

In general, you can expect a wait of 4-6 weeks for new, first-time applications to be reviewed and approved. If you’ve submitted an application for use of anonymized data/biological materials, or a  course-based application, you can expect a turn-around time of about two weeks. For annual renewals or modifications to a previously approved protocol, the wait time is about two weeks.

Please make sure that your application is complete before you submit it. If it’s incomplete it won’t be forwarded for review and will be held at the end of the queue until we receive the missing items. “Incomplete” usually refers to missing appendices or to sections of the application that were not completed, but it can also refer to poorly-written applications that don’t provide enough information on the study for a review to be undertaken.

How will I be notified of the status of my ethics review, or if it has been approved?

You will receive an email notification if your application requires revisions before approval is granted (which is the case for the majority of applications). You will also be notified via email when your application has been approved.

The notification email will go to your preferred email address (you can set your preferred email address through My Page). 

Are there any deadlines?

In order to ensure that the applications can be approved in time for the start of the course, we have launched the following deadlines for instructors submitting Course-Based Ethics Applications:

August 1, for courses beginning in September (Fall Term)

December 1, for courses beginning in January (Winter Term)

April 1, for courses beginning in May/June (Spring Term)

June 1, for courses beginning in July/August (Summer Term)

Only course-based applications have these deadlines. No deadlines apply to our other ethics applications.

What is the Tri-Council Policy Statement (TCPS) and why is it important?

The Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS) is the joint research ethics policy statement of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

The TCPS outlines standards and procedures for research involving humans and applies to those conducting, participating in, or reviewing human research in institutions funded by CIHR, NSERC or SSHRC. As a condition of funding, these three agencies require that researchers and more than 80 affiliated institutions follow the TCPS.

The TCPS was first published in August 1998 to promote the ethical conduct of research involving humans. The 2nd edition of the TCPS is expected to be released in Fall 2010.

Do I need to read the TCPS before writing my application?

We recommend that you go through the TCPS tutorial before applying. At the very least, we strongly recommend that you read the TCPS chapters that are relevant to your research.

What to do about signatures for my modification form if I (or my supervisor) am off campus?

Many departments have systems in place to help off-campus students obtain signatures and submit their modification form (for studies approved through paper-based system) to Research Ethics and when a supervisor is out of town or on sabbatical. 

Students should contact their departmental secretary and their supervisor. 

The supervisor and departmental office would then be responsible for coordination for obtaining the supervisor’s signature and an original signature (usually from the chair, director or dean) and forwarding the signed hard copy modification form to Research Ethics via campus mail.


Do I need ethics approval before I can access my funding?

Generally, yes. If you have received a grant to fund a study that needs ethics approval, then you will need approval before accessing funds.

If you need access to funding for preparatory activities (e.g. research design, hiring staff, consultation, travel), you can submit a Request for Funding Release Prior to Human Research Ethics Review.”

If you have any questions please contact Manager, Research Finances and Budget at 250-721-8079,

How do I know if my study requires research ethics approval?

Please see the list of some example activities that are exempt from human research ethics review and examples of research activities that require human research ethics review.

Do I need UVic ethics approval if I'm a team member on a project that already has ethics approval(s) from another institution(s)?

UVic does not have agreements in place with institutions outside of BC for harmonized human research ethics review (for information about multijurisdictional research studies and harmonized research ethics review in BC, please refer to:

As a University of Victoria affiliated researcher (faculty, student or staff) participating in a multi-jurisdictional project* with ethics approval(s) from institution(s) outside of BC (e.g., a university, college, hospital, health region, etc.), you will need to apply for UVic ethics approval. Please submit your application via UVic-RAIS ( and ensure you upload, as part of your UVic application, the approved protocols from the institutions involved in your study. The UVic Human Research Ethics Board review of your application will focus on your role and involvement in the study and UVic-specific requirements (e.g., UVic Biosafety Registration). The board will take into consideration the existing approval(s) and procedures from non-UVic ethics boards. It is unlikely, in these instances, that the UVic review would result in changes to project procedures and documents (e.g., consent forms) such that the existing approval(s) would require major amendments. 

*Multi-jurisdictional means any of the following:

  • You are a research team member on a project comprised of academics at one or more non-BC universities;
  • You are a research team member on a project comprised of academics, community-based researchers or clinical staff at one or more non-BC universities or health regions/hospitals;
  • You are the sole academic researcher and obtained ethics approval from a health region, hospital or university to access patients, files, data or students for research purposes.

Completing your UVic Human Research Ethics Application in a multi-jurisdictional study

Because multi-jurisdictional project teams often assign specific tasks to individual team members at different institutions, when completing your UVic ethics application please identify those project procedures that you will conduct or be involved in, and those procedures that non-UVic team members will lead or be responsible for. Examples: 

  • In the recruitment section: “I will be recruiting participants in BC only. The U of Lethbridge colleague will recruit Alberta participants. [Describe your recruitment procedure in the recruitment section of the UVic ethics application form]. 
In the recruitment section:  “I will not be recruiting any participants in this study. Another team member at a community-based organization will be recruiting participants and they will set up the interviews.  However, I will obtain consent from participants and will conduct all interviews. [Describe your procedures for obtaining consent and conducting interviews in the relevant sections of the UVic ethics application form.]

I will be interviewing participants by telephone. Can I obtain consent through email or fax?

Generally yes. The UVIc Research Ethics Board will also consider the specifics of the study and the participants to determine whether this method of consent is acceptable for the study.

I have heard there are privacy issues using Internet surveys based in the US. What are they?

Online survey instruments based out the US (e.g., SurveyMonkey) are subject to the US Freedom Act. As such, there is a possibility that information collected via these surveys may be accessed, without the survey participant’s knowledge or consent, by the US government in compliance with the US Freedom Act.

For this reason, we require this information to be disclosed to research participants who will be using a US-based survey instrument during the consent process. (Preferably, this will be stated at the beginning of the questionnaire so that it is not overlooked by the participant.). Alternatively, you may choose to use a Canadian-based survey tool.

How do I know whether I need to modify my study and if so, what do I do to make changes to an approved project?

Requests for Changes to Approved Research

Researchers shall submit to their REBs in a timely manner requests for substantive changes to their originally approved research. REBs shall decide on the ethical acceptability of those changes to the research in accordance with a proportionate approach to research ethics review.

Application  In general, it is not the size of the change that dictates the ethics review process, but rather the ethical implications and risk associated with the proposed change. In case of doubt on the potential impact of the change to approved research on the level of risk to participants, researchers should consult with their REBs. Changes that substantially alter the nature of the approved research may be assessed as a new research project and require a new REB review.

In the conduct of their approved research, researchers should be aware of the requirement to report to their REB, in a timely manner, proposed changes from approved research that affect participants at any stage of the process including, but not limited to, changes to the consent form, changes to the tasks or interventions involved in the research, or changes to measures to protect privacy and confidentiality. Any substantive change to the research should not be implemented without documented approval by the REB, except when necessary to eliminate an immediate risk(s) to the participants.

Requests for changes to approved research may receive delegated or full REB review depending on the level of risk to participants that the changes represent. REB evaluation of these requests can result in a change to the assessed risk of the research and a corresponding change in the level of continuing ethics review.  REBs should give special attention to circumstances that may necessitate change in long-term research such as new knowledge, equipment or instruments, or new or revised applicable policies and laws that may develop over the lifetime of a research project.

Do I need to notify the ethics office when my study is complete?

Yes, once the recruitment and data collection phase of your study is complete, you must notify our office by doing one of the following:

  1. submitting the MS Word project completion form for studies approved through paper-based system, or
  2. submitting the project completion form that can be accessed through UVic-RAIS for studies approved through UVic-RAIS.

Is ethics approval required when talking to stakeholders, communities, organizations, other academics etc. to plan a research project or a grant proposal?

Ethical approval is not required for the initial exploratory phase[s of a project], which may involve contact with individuals, communities intended to establish research partnerships, and to inform the design of a research proposal (Article 6.11 Tri- Council Policy Statement).  

Additionally, discussions and consultations to assess the feasibility of a project, identify budgets and priorities, and/or planning a project grant also fall under project management and preparatory activities, and do not require ethical approval.  However, in the event researchers intend to (also) study project management processes and the discussions and products from the meetings will be used as research data (e.g., observations of stakeholders, using notes and information gathered from planning meetings, analysing stakeholder conversations etc.) these activities would serve two purposes (project preparations and research with humans) and would require human research ethics approval before the activities are undertaken.