Arctic Contaminants: Exploring effective and appropriate communication between Inuvialuit communities and researchers
Principal Investigator: Reinfort, Breanne C (4)
Licence Number: 15042
Organization: University of Manitoba
Licenced Year(s): 2012 2011 2010 2009
Issued: Mar 26, 2012
Project Team: Community Members of Sachs Harbour (Co-investigators/Participants, Community of Sachs Harbour NT), Shannon O'Hara (Inuit Research Advisor, Inuvialuit Regional Corporation), Gary Stern (Advisor, Dept. Fisheries and Oceans Canada/University of Manitoba), Chris Furgal (Advisor, Trent University)

Objective(s): To understand indigenous perspectives on contaminants, contaminant research, and how research is communicated and made accessible to communities; to discuss contaminants issues in the context of their applicability to the daily lives of community members, and in the broader context of local and scientific knowledge of climate variability and overall environmental research throughout the North.

Project Description: The short-term objectives of this research project are to:
- bring forward indigenous perspectives on contaminants, contaminant research, and how research is communicated and made accessible to communities;
- discuss contaminants issues in the context of their applicability to the daily lives of community members, and in the broader context of local and scientific knowledge of climate variability and overall environmental research throughout the North;
- in conjunction with community members, explore culturally relevant and appropriate means of communicating scientific results between Inuvialuit communities and researchers; and
- use the contaminants research (specifically mercury) being conducted in the Beaufort Sea region as part of NCP Environmental Monitoring projects, ArcticNet Phase II and IPY CFL studies as the sources of research results to be discussed, as detailed above, with community members.

The long-term objectives of this research project are to:
- strengthen existing communication programs, develop novel ways of disseminating contaminants messages, and can be used by future researchers to facilitate communicating their research with and addressing the concerns of Inuvialuit communities;
- present the process and outcomes of this project in the form of a community-led participatory video, in addition to the production of communications materials in conjunction with both locals and the ISR’s IRA; and
- empower community members to engage in contaminants research occurring in and around their communities.

Due to unexpected circumstances, Ms Reinfort was not able to complete her fieldwork in November, 2011, as was initially planned under the ARI research license 14860. The following briefly describes the work that has previously occurred (interviews), as well as that which has yet to take place (focus groups).

This study uses a participatory approach in all aspects of processes and procedures, which means that everyone involved is a researcher and a participant that can be involved in any and all aspects of the project. Participatory video is one of the main methods of research, as it places the video in the hands of the participants, thus celebrating multiple ways of knowing and encouraging participants to represent their own reality.

Conducted interviews were open-ended and semi-structured, and lasted a maximum of two hours in length. All discussions have been video- or audio-recorded depending on the participants’ choice as indicated on their voluntary informed consent form. In total, 27% of the Sachs Harbour population was interviewed. Focus groups have yet to occur, and participants will be involved in determining their formation and who is interested in filming, in addition to developing the best practices for communicating contaminants research from the community’s perspective (this is the main topic of the focus group). This study is intended for all interested community members from all ages to have different perspectives and experiences represented, and participants are welcome to discuss in Inuvialuktun or English. The project is intended to be open and reflexive at all stages, with no pre-determined outcomes.

As a community-focused project, there are many opportunities for locals to become involved as little or as much as they wish. Locals are invited to participate in and/or lead individual or focus group interviews and discussions, raise questions for discussion, film the discussions, critically verify their interviews and analyze discussions, develop questionnaires, create project deliverables, and evaluate the project.

These opportunities offer hands-on learning experiences to all people involved, and skills can be transferred to other initiatives that the community wishes to explore and develop. As the video will belong to the community, it can provide a platform from which other community-led communication or research initiatives can expand, be it within Sachs Harbour, the greater Inuvialuit Settlement Region, or the wider Arctic and scientific communities.

This project has the potential to strengthen relationships between community members and researchers, increase knowledge and awareness of contaminants issues, empower individuals to become engaged in conducting research that can benefit Northern and scientific communities, and increase the understanding of the process of communication when discussing contaminants research. Through discussions on contaminants issues and how to better communicate them, participants can become more informed about these issues and be able to communicate contaminants messages within their community as they see appropriate. A community that has the knowledge and means to interact with this information at the community level can use this awareness to help make sense of how contaminants fit in with and impact their health, and the health of their environment.

Since this project is about the communication of contaminants research results to the community and collaboratively involves participants, dissemination of research results is an ongoing and iterative process. Indeed, the very processes through which this project is conducted, such as the participatory paradigm and community-centred focus, have been set up as such so that participants can consider the effectiveness and appropriateness of this project itself as a possible means for communicating research. Thus, the process through which we explore communication is, in fact, a means of communication in itself, and distinguishes this project from previous communication efforts. Culturally appropriate and effective ways of communicating study results will be the outcome of this project and as such, are currently undetermined. Aside from a thesis and publications in the peer-reviewed literature by Ms Reinfort, possibilities may include video, presentations to schools and researchers, web-based documents, reports, pamphlets, or posters; all of which will be community-led and collaborative.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from March 23, 2012 to November 2, 2012.