Conducting Research in Canada’s North
As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation evolves in Canada and abroad, Polar Knowledge Canada (POLAR) continues to take guidance from the national, regional, and territorial health authorities to guide researchers on conducting research in the North. We encourage domestic and international researchers to be aware of the current restrictions in place and follow current health and safety recommendations. To find detailed COVID-19 safety regulations please consult our "Region-specific research information" section.
Canada's North has significant geo-political, environmental and cultural variations that make conducting research in the region both exciting and challenging. As the national organization responsible for advancing knowledge in Canada's North, Polar Knowledge Canada (POLAR) has compiled the following online material to assist researchers in preparing for their visit. These resources provide best practices, as well as region-specific information, for conducting research in Nunatsiavut (northern Labrador), Nunavik (northern Quebec), Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Yukon.
If the information you seek is not available below, please contact email@example.com.
On this page
- Region-specific research information
- Research process outline
- Checklist for conducting research in Canada's North
- The Agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation
- Site review and comments
Region-specific research information
The information that follows relates to research activity conducted in:
- Northwest Territories
- Nunavik (northern Quebec)
- Nunatsiavut (northern Labrador)
A Region-specific research information resource has been compiled by Polar Knowledge Canada through engagement with northern and Indigenous collaborators and stakeholders, and other organizations. Please refer to this document to learn more about the communities and cultures of the area in which you would like to do research and to find additional resources to facilitate your research project.
Research process outline
Local and regional authorities
Initiating and sustaining partnerships with local organizations and community members is a priority in northern research. Before you begin planning your project, consider which local and/or regional organizations should be aware of, and involved in, your upcoming research. Important points of contact may include:
- Hamlet or community council offices
- Land claims organizations
- Indigenous representative organizations
- Co-management boards
- Territorial government departments
- Research institutes
To determine which organizations you should involve in your research, begin by learning more about the community/region you will be visiting in the Region-specific research information section. Communicating with relevant local organizations should be the first stage of your research planning process and should continue throughout your project. These partnerships have the potential to benefit your research in many ways, and are essential to ensuring northern and Indigenous perspectives are central to the research activity conducted in Canada's North.
Permitting for research in Canada's North is an essential process that requires ample time and planning. Key considerations:
- Where you are conducting your research will determine which regional permitting authorities you must contact;
- The nature and scope of your research will determine what permits you require;
- Be aware of when permit applications are due, as review and processing times for research permits can be lengthy to allow permitting authorities to engage with local groups and evaluate potential impacts. Start your applications early;
- Find out who you need to involve in your research, as permitting processes often require applicants to engage and collaborate with communities that are nearby;
- Connect with a research station in the region you intend to visit to get expert advice on how to navigate region-specific permitting processes
Regional Permitting Authorities
The following links summarize regional permitting processes, provide important contact information and direct you to official permitting authorities in Canada's North:
- Yukon: Government of Yukon Department of Tourism and Culture
- Northwest Territories: Aurora Research Institute
- Nunavut: Nunavut Research Institute
- Nunatsiavut: Nunatsiavut Research Centre
Important reminder: researchers must obtain ethics reviews for their research projects involving human subjects and/or Indigenous knowledge. Note that researchers may have to independently attain these ethics reviews through their affiliated academic or research institution, in addition to going through local permitting processes. Consult the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans for more detail about research ethics reviews.
Federal Permitting Authorities
Research that involves marine or freshwater scientific research, migratory birds, species at risk (terrestrial and aquatic), protected areas or national parks falls under federal jurisdiction and will require additional permits.
For marine scientific research that is not funded by a government foreign to Canada, please seek the necessary permits from Fisheries and Oceans Canada;
- For research that involves aquatic species at risk including fish, shellfish, crustacean, marine animal or marine plants please seek a permit under the Species at Risk Act
- For research that will be located in Marine Protected Areas (MPA's), please consult Fisheries and Oceans Canada on your research in the following regions- Anguniaqvia niqiqyuam MPA and Tarium Niryutait MPA
For marine scientific research funded by a government foreign to Canada, Global Affairs Canada facilitates the review and approval of applications. Researchers interested in conducting marine scientific research in areas under Canadian jurisdiction or sovereignty must submit an application to Global Affairs Canada through their diplomatic mission accredited to Canada. This application must be submitted at least 180 days prior to the commencement of research activities, or vessel entry into waters under Canadian jurisdiction or sovereignty, whichever comes first. More information is available here. For questions or requests, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org directly if you have questions or requests
If you have consulted the relevant federal authority's website and still require additional information to navigate federal permitting, please contact POLAR for assistance at email@example.com.
Canadian Network of Northern Research Operators
The Canadian Network of Northern Research Operators (CNNRO) is an expansive network of nearly 100 facilities and organizations with services and personnel that can support researchers operating in Canada's North. Connect with CNNRO stations during the planning stage of your research project to get the know-how to work safely and effectively in Canada's North.
Polar Continental Shelf Program
The Polar Continental Shelf Program (PCSP) provides advice and logistics coordination and planning for eligible research initiatives in Canada's North. If your logistics needs are beyond what a research station or local authority can provide, consider applying to PCSP for logistics support during their annual application period, which usually occurs in October of the year preceding your field research project.
- Researchers from Canadian federal and territorial governments, universities, and northern organizations are eligible to apply for direct, in-kind support and logistics coordination from PCSP (i.e., PCSP may be able to defray all or a portion of direct logistics expenditures for projects).
- International Researchers may apply for PCSP logistics coordination support in Canada's North that, if feasible, would be provided on a recoverable basis (i.e., all expenditures associated with the logistics provided for a project would be invoiced to the client).
- PCSP can provide field equipment for loan to eligible projects for work in Canada's North, including communications equipment, camping gear, winter clothing, field vehicles, and safety supplies.
Local authority and community contacts
Continue communicating and, where possible, building partnerships with local authorities. Throughout this process, visiting researchers should be aware that some northern and Indigenous communities may have limited capacity to engage with researchers.
Training and logistics
Research in the North comes with logistical and operational challenges, and having the right training is essential to the health and safety for your research team. Consider the lists below and consult with a local authority or research station for more insight into what is required for your research project:
Occupational Health and Safety:
Health and Safety for remote locations:
- Wilderness first aid and wilderness first responder
- Snow and ice safety
- Predator defense and firearm licences
- Certificates associated with vehicle operation in field
- Rabies vaccinations
Logistics and Operations
- Waste management and reporting hazardous material spills
- Air support to access remote locations
- Shipping dangerous goods
- Sample shipping out-of-country (export regulations, brokerage fees and biosecurity protocols)
- Equipment shipment and storage at a field site
- Monitoring device deployment and maintenance
Research in Canada's North benefits from community input and participation. Collaboration should be central to all stages of the research process, and communities can contribute to the planning, collection of samples, and data interpretation of research projects. Consider the following questions:
- What are the relevant community/ representative organizations you should engage with at the local and regional level?
- Have you connected with these organizations to discuss your research plans and to inquire about local and/or regional research procedures and resources?
- Does your project address a 'priority area' that many northern regions and communities have set for research?
- Could your research benefit from having community input in defining research objectives?
- Youth are important voices in northern research. How can youth be involved in, and contribute, to your project?
- Can local Indigenous Knowledge be utilized in the development and delivery of research activities?
- How will you share your data with the community following your research project?
- How will you ensure language barriers do not prevent meaningful engagement with community members?
Find out more about the peoples and places of Canada's North by clicking on the 'Communities' link in each region of the Region-specific information document.
Research Ethics for working with Indigenous peoples
There are a number of resources available to help introduce researchers to the ethics of working with Indigenous peoples on research:
- Existing Protocols and Initiatives
- Panel on Research Ethics: research involving First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples of Canada
- National Inuit Strategy on Research
Reminder: researchers must obtain ethics reviews for their research projects involving human subjects and/or Indigenous knowledge. Note that researchers may have to independently attain these ethics reviews through their affiliated academic or research institution, in addition to going through local permitting processes. Review the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans for more detail about research ethics reviews.
Indigenous Knowledge (IK) is a body of knowledge generated through lived experiences, and multiple generations of observations, skills, cultural practices and analyses. IK is fundamentally important to the practical application of science and research in the North. When engaging with Indigenous communities in the North, POLAR encourages researchers to approach IK and scientific knowledge on the basis of equality and mutual respect. Researchers are encouraged to utilize, as appropriate, Indigenous Knowledge in the planning and delivery of their research activities. The following links can provide more information on the respectful incorporation of IK:
- Negotiating Research Relationships with Inuit Communities
- Ethics guide on research and First Nations Traditional Knowledge
Languages and dialects vary considerably across First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities. While English and French can be prevalent in the North, it is suggested that researchers use the local language by hiring an interpreter and paying for translations when possible (i.e. community meetings, plain language summaries for local partners). Note that some permitting applications in Nunavut will require translation. For more information on Inuit languages, you can find online resources compiled by the Government of Nunavut.
Canadian and international researchers
Collaboration between researchers is central to the success of northern science initiatives. When project objectives align and knowledge sharing potential exists, Canadian and international researchers are encouraged to collaborate.
Connecting with an established research station through CNNRO may also help you engage with other researchers in your field.
Prepare for travel
Travel and documentation
If you or a member of your field team are foreign citizens, you may need to obtain a valid entry document to travel to Canada, such as an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) or a visa. Consider applying for the necessary travel documents before booking your flights to Canada. If applying for a visa, ensure you are applying for the appropriate category (i.e., work, study or visitor permit), based on the specifics or your research project. If you are an international researcher, ensure you review and understand the Canadian Border Services Agency's information on foreign-based research in Canada.
Consult the Region-specific information document and click on the 'Getting There' links for general information about airlines and travel in Canada's North.
Personal safety and equipment
It is essential that you take the appropriate steps to ensure your health and safety before you travel to Canada's North.
Health Insurance and Air Ambulance Coverage
You must have health insurance that includes medical evacuation by air ambulance when operating in remote northern regions. As costs vary regionally, consult with a research station or local authority in Canada's North to determine the recommended minimum coverage for medical emergencies and medical evacuation.
Conducting research in Canada's North, even during the summer season, requires specialized gear. Be aware of weather conditions for the time of year that you will be conducting your research and consult your affiliated research station for any additional equipment needs. It is important to arrive prepared, as equipment can be limited in remote northern communities and/or field sites and pre-planning is required.
Reporting and follow-up
Permits often require researchers to submit reports to issuing authorities after their project is complete. Upon receiving your official permits, be sure to note reporting guidelines and due dates.
Community follow-up is key to respecting local and Indigenous participation in research, and to building a positive and thriving research community in Canada's North.
You can share information with communities in many ways. Examples include:
- Short, plain-language reports and posters
- Community meetings
- 'Coffee house' or presentations for youth
- Speaking with local radio stations and newspapers
- Joining local social media pages
Whenever possible, ask local authorities or research stations about how best to conduct outreach. POLAR would also be interested in hearing how your research and community engagement went as an opportunity to share best practices. Please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Researchers are asked to send published reports to local authorities and governments who assisted in their work. This ensures that data and knowledge about the North is available for local, regional and national decision-making.
Canadian data catalogues
To support full and open access to data and facilitate future research in Canada's North, research results should be disseminated in as many Canadian forums as possible. Researchers are asked to share metadata records in national data catalogues, such as the Polar Data Catalogue, and enable access to datasets.
Checklist for conducting research in Canada's North
Find more information on the steps necessary for conducting safe, respectful and successful northern research. Before you arrive to Canada's North, read and work through this checklist: HTML | Download PDF
The agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation
Canada, along with the other Arctic states (Denmark, Finland, Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Russia, and, United States), signed the legally-binding Agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation on May 11th, 2017 at the Arctic Council Ministerial meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska. The purpose of the Agreement is to enhance transnational research by facilitating access to identified geographic areas, research infrastructure and facilities, and data and metadata. The agreement also encourages efforts that promote education, capacity building and training of the next generation of Arctic researchers, as well as communication with Indigenous Peoples and incorporation of Indigenous and local knowledge in research activities when appropriate. The Agreement came into force May 23rd, 2018 after all the Parties ratified the Agreement.
The Agreement is subject to existing laws, regulations, procedures, and policies in Canada, including the existing rights of Indigenous peoples. The Identified Geographic Areas for Canada includes the territories of Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut and the adjacent marine areas of Canada. However, POLAR will implement and extend the provisions of the Agreement to the regions of Nunatsiavut, Nunavik, and the other northern provincial regions.
National contact point for the Agreement
Polar Knowledge Canada (POLAR) is the competent national authority for the Agreement, with Global Affairs Canada as the point of contact for requests specifically related to marine scientific research. POLAR seeks to play a facilitating role by sharing relevant information with researchers who are planning to conduct research in Canada's North. While some specific logistical issues of conducting research in the North will be best addressed by contacting the research station and local authorities in the region of interest as advised above, POLAR will seek to provide support wherever possible. Please contact us at email@example.com.
The Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) campus located in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, is operated by POLAR. Those interested in conducting research at the CHARS campus are asked to connect with us directly to facilitate their research project.
Other relevant departments and agencies
Global Affairs Canada
- International marine scientific research in Canadian waters must be approved by the Defence and Security Relations Division of Global Affairs Canada (email firstname.lastname@example.org). See Canadian Border Services Agency memorandum on Foreign Scientific or Exploratory Expeditions in Canada for more information.
Canadian Border Services Agency
- Border Information Service: 1-800-461-9999 (within Canada), 204-983-3500 or 506-636-5064 (outside of Canada)
- Foreign Expeditions and Arctic Research: FEAR-EERA@cbsa-asfc.gc.ca
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
- General enquiries: (by phone) 613-993-0999, (by email) email@example.com
- Contact information for regional offices
Canadian Coast Guard
- General enquiries: (by phone) 613-993-0999, (by email) firstname.lastname@example.org
- Regional emergency numbers for Search and Rescue and Marine Pollution Incident
Site review and comments
As the competent national authority implementing the Agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation, Polar Knowledge Canada (POLAR) has endeavored to gather resources to inform and guide researchers through their research in Canada's North. Whether you are a visiting researcher or a local research authority, POLAR is interested in hearing your feedback on the resources we have compiled. As Canada's research landscape continues to evolve, POLAR strives to keep this site up-to-date and in-line with best practices, and welcomes your feedback to achieve this goal. Any questions or comments can be sent to email@example.com.
Links are provided in the language(s) that they are available. Please note that the majority of the resources are only available in English.
- Health and Wellness – COVID-19 Updates
- Council of Yukon First Nations
- Arctic Athabaskan Council
- Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada: Inuvialuit Settlement Region
- Getting there: Air North, Aklak Air
- GNWT's Response to COVID-19
- Aurora Research Institute – COVID-19
- NWT Indigenous Governments
- Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada: Inuvialuit Settlement Region
- Getting There: Air North, Aklak Air
- Research Excellence in the Northwest Territories
- Permits: Aurora Research Institute
- Negotiating Research Relationships with Inuit Communities: A Guide for Researchers
- Northwest Territories CNNRO Facilities
- Wek'èezii Land and Water Board Licensing
- Gwich'in Land and Water Board Licensing
- Sahtu Land and Water Board Licensing
- Waste Management
- Nunavut Department of Health – COVID-19
- Guidelines for Research Activities in Nunavut during the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Inuit Owned Lands Map
- Inuit Associations: Qikiqtani, Kitikmeot, Kivalliq
- Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada: Nunavut
- Getting There: First Air, Canadian North
- Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services
- Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada: Nunavik
- Getting There: Air Inuit
- Nunatsiavut Government
- Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada: Nunatsiavut
- Getting There: PAL Airlines, Air Borealis
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