Globally, harmful algal blooms (HABs) are on the rise, as is evidence of their toxicity. The impacts associated with blooms, however, vary across Nation states, as do the strategies and protocols to assess, monitor, and manage their occurrence. In Canada, water quality guidelines are standardized nationally, but the management strategies for HABs are not. Here, we explore current strategies to understand how to better communicate risks associated with HABs to the public. Our team conducted an environmental scan on provincial and territorial government agency protocols around HABs. Results suggest that there are variations in the monitoring, managing, and communicating of risk to the public: British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, and Quebec have well-established inter-agency protocols, and most provinces report following federal guidelines for water quality. Notably, 3 northern territories have no HABs monitoring or management protocols in place. More populous provinces use a variety of information venues (websites, social media, on site postings, and radio) to communicate risks associated with HABs, whereas others’ communications are limited. To induce more collaboration on HABs monitoring and management and reduce the associated risks, creating a coherent system with consistent messaging and inter-agency communication is suggested.
This essay reviews challenges posed to community-engaged scholars regarding tenure/promotion processes in Canadian universities, with a note to characteristics of community-engaged scholarship that were developed by Catherine Jordan (2007) to address gaps in academic assessment of engaged scholarship. These characteristics are: clear goals, adequate preparation, appropriate methods: scientific rigor and community engagement, significant results/impact, effective presentation/dissemination, reflective critique, leadership and personal contribution, and consistently ethical behavior. These are then applied to a non-peer reviewed work that describes the cumulative effects of environmental change for people in the Slave River Delta Region of the North West Territories, Canada. The reader is asked to view Delta Ways Remembered, a 13-minute video employing an enhanced e-storytelling technique to share and disseminate traditional knowledge about the delta from a compendium of people as a single-voiced narrative. The purpose is to highlight the scholarship underlying non-traditional academic expositions not readily assessed under current paradigms of academic evaluation. This essay strives to illustrate how Jordan’s characteristics can be applied to evaluate non-peer reviewed scholarly work, and also to share rewards and challenges associated with the harmonious blending of Indigenous and western knowledge addressing societal/environmental issues identified by the Indigenous community.
This study complements the existing literature on disparities associated with Indigenous and non-Indigenous small drinking water systems. The team took a quantitative approach and assessed relationships between seasonality, location, and type of community against the number of drinking water advisories in Saskatchewan for a 4-year period from 2012 to 2016. Generalised estimating equations were used to determine significant factors contributing to the likelihood of drinking water advisories comparing Indigenous to non-Indigenous communities of similar sizes. Results indicated that the season and the interaction between community type and region (north vs. south) were significant in the model for counts of advisories. Reserve communities in the north had a drinking water advisory count that was 5.19 times greater than those of reserves in the south, 2.63 times greater than counts for towns in the south and 4.94 times greater than those of villages in the south. Additional comparisons indicated that reserves in the north had 2.43 times as many advisories as villages in the north, but towns situated in the south part of the province had 1.98 times as many advisories as reserves in the south, and 1.88 times as many advisories as villages in the south. The work confirms heightened risk among northern Indigenous communities and suggests that increased attention to, and investment in, securing water resources is necessary in rural Saskatchewan and globally.
Rural communities dependent on unregulated drinking water are potentially at increased health risk from exposure to contaminants. Perception of drinking water safety influences water consumption, exposure, and health risk. A community-based participatory approach and probabilistic Bayesian methods were applied to integrate risk perception in a holistic human health risk assessment. Tap water arsenic concentrations and risk perception data were collected from two Saskatchewan communities. Drinking water health standards were exceeded in 67% (51/76) of households in Rural Municipality #184 (RM184) and 56% (25/45) in Beardy's and Okemasis First Nation (BOFN). There was no association between the presence of a health exceedance and risk perception. Households in RM184 or with an annual income >$50,000 were most likely to have in-house water treatment. The probability of consuming tap water perceived as safe (92%) or not safe (0%) suggested that households in RM184 were unlikely to drink water perceived as not safe. The probability of drinking tap water perceived as safe (77%) or as not safe (11%) suggested households in BOFN contradicted their perception and consumed water perceived as unsafe. Integration of risk perception lowered the adult incremental lifetime cancer risk by 3% to 1.3 × 10-5 (95% CI 8.4 × 10-8 to 9.0 × 10-5 ) for RM184 and by 8.9 × 10-6 (95% CI 2.2 × 10-7 to 5.9 × 10-5 ) for BOFN. Probability of exposure to arsenic concentrations >1:100,000, negligible cancer risk, was 23% for RM184 and 22% for BOFN.
Provision of safe water on reserves is an ongoing problem in Canada that can be addressed by mobilizing water knowledge across diverse platforms to a variety of audiences. A participatory artistic animation video on the lived experiences of Elderswith water in Yellow Quill First Nation, Treaty Four territory, was created to mobilize knowledge beyond conventional peer-review channels. Research findings from interviews with 22 Elders were translated through a collaborative process into a video with a storytelling format that harmonized narratives, visual arts, music, and meaningful symbols. Three themes emerged which centered on the spirituality of water, the survival need for water, and standoffs in water management. The translation process, engagement and video output were evaluated using an autoethnographic approach with two members of the research team. We demonstrate how the collaborative research process and co-created video enhance community-based participatory knowledge translation and sharing. We also express how the video augments First Nations community ownership, control, access and possession (OCAP) of research information that aligns with their storytelling traditions and does so in a youth-friendly, e-compatible form. Through the evaluative process we share lessons learned about the value and effectiveness of the video as a tool for fostering partnerships, and reconciliation. The benefits and positive impacts of the video for the Yellow Quill community and for community members are discussed.
Access to drinkable water is essential to human life. The consequence of unsafe drinking water can be damaging to communities and catastrophic to human health. Today, one in five First Nation communities in Canada is on a boil water advisory, with some advisories lasting over 10 years. Factors contributing to this problem stretch back to colonial structures and institutional arrangement that reproduce woefully inadequate community drinking water systems. Notwithstanding these challenges, First Nation communities remain diligent, adaptive, and innovative in their efforts to provide drinkable water to their community members. One example is through the practice of source water protection planning. Source water is untreated water from groundwater or surface water that supplies drinking water for human consumption. Source water protection is operationalized through land and water planning activities aimed at reducing the risk of contamination from entering a public drinking water supply. Here, we introduce a source water protection planning process at Muskowekwan First Nation, Treaty 4, Saskatchewan. The planning process followed a community-based participatory approach guided by trust, respect, and reciprocity between community members and university researchers. Community members identified threats to the drinking water source followed by restorative land management actions to reduce those threats. The result of this process produced much more than a planning document but engaged multiple community members in a process of empowerment and self-determination. The process of plan-making produced many unintended results including human–land connectivity, reconnection with the water spirit, as well as the reclaiming of indigenous planning. Source water protection planning may not correct all the current water system inadequacies that exist on many First Nations, but it will empower communities to take action to protect their drinking water sources for future generations as a pathway to local water security.
Trophic transfer of contaminants dictates concentrations and potential toxic effects in top predators, yet biomagnification behaviour of many trace elements is poorly understood. We examined concentrations of vanadium and thallium, two globally-distributed and anthropogenically-enriched elements, in a food web of the Slave River, Northwest Territories, Canada. We found that tissue concentrations of both elements declined with increasing trophic position as measured by δ15N. Slopes of log [element] versus δ15N regressions were both negative, with a steeper slope for V (-0.369) compared with Tl (-0.099). These slopes correspond to declines of 94% with each step in the food chain for V and 54% with each step in the food chain for Tl. This biodilution behaviour for both elements meant that concentrations in fish were well below values considered to be of concern for the health of fish-eating consumers. Further study of these elements in food webs is needed to allow a fuller understanding of biomagnification patterns across a range of species and systems.
There is movement in engineering fields and in Indigenous communities for enhancement of local participation in the design of community infrastructure. Inclusion of community priorities and unique cultural, spiritual, and traditional values harmonize the appearance, location, and functionality of developments with the social and cultural context in which they are built and contribute to holistic wellness. However, co-design processes that align community values and the technical needs of water facilities are difficult to find. A scoping review was conducted to explore the state of knowledge on co-design of water infrastructure in Indigenous Canada to build a knowledge base from which practices and processes could emerge. The scoping results revealed that articles and reports emerged only in recent years, contained case studies and meta-reviews with primary (qualitative) data, and involved community members in various capacities. Overall, 13 articles were reviewed that contributed to understanding co-design for water infrastructure in Indigenous Canada. Barriers to co-design included funding models for Indigenous community infrastructure, difficulties in engineers and designers understanding Indigenous worldviews and paradigms, and a lack of cooperation among stakeholders that contribute to ongoing design failures. A working definition of co-design for Indigenous water infrastructure is presented.