Community-Based Environmental Monitoring (CBEM) for Meaningful Incorporation of Indigenous and Local Knowledge Within the Context of the Canadian Northern Corridor Program


  • Jen Sidorova
  • Luis D. Virla



Meaningful incorporation of Indigenous and local knowledge (ILK) in climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts is key to accelerating effective action plans. This study argues that community-based environmental monitoring (CBEM), if done properly, can be more effective in incorporating ILK than environmental impact and monitoring based only on Western science. The paper examines successful elements, benefits, challenges and limitations in the existing CBEM studies that incorporate ILK to recognize how to design comprehensive CBEM policy for large-scale infrastructure projects such as the Canadian Northern Corridor (CNC) concept.

Based on a proposed framework for CBEM implementation (CBEM-IF), the study examines three Canadian CBEM case studies: berry pollution monitoring (AB), water quality monitoring (AB, BC, NWT, NT, SK and YT) and caribou monitoring (QC and NL), to evaluate lessons learned and to inform future CNC policy development. This study illustrates how knowledge co-production provides more opportunities for actions in sustainable development and incorporates emotional and spiritual components that entail different conceptualizations of human-nature connectedness. CBEM facilitates the incorporation of ILK and science, engages community members in the monitoring process and produces research outcomes which stakeholders perceive as more legitimate and relevant. CBEM can be a powerful tool in land-use conflict resolution, and it represents an inexpensive approach to monitoring the Arctic and near-
North. Indigenous leadership, technology incorporation and equal partnership with communities, and availability of institutional guidelines were identified as required to enable the proper implementation of CBEM programs within the CNC. However, certain limitations of CBEM include lack of policy and guidelines; high reliance on volunteers; lack of standardized methods; focus on specific types of a landscape; general issues with TEK incorporation into science; and policy issues due to the incommensurability
of Western science and the ILK epistemologies. Such challenges can be generalized as technical, organizational, financial and environmental issues and can be addressed by applying successful elements from previous international and Canadian CBEM studies. The authors suggest a series of policy recommendations to enable the implementation of CBEM as a means for meaningful incorporation of ILK on sustainable development projects and the CNC.






Research Papers