IMALIRIJIIT: a community-based environmental monitoring program in the George River watershed, Nunavik, Canada

There is increasing interest in community-based environmental monitoring (CBEM) in Canada’s North in response to the rising impacts of resource exploitation and climate change, and with increased recognition of indigenous knowledge. IMALIRIJIIT, meaning those who study water in Inuktitut, is a CBEM program involving science land camps, capacity-building workshops, and scientific data collection with the participation of youth, elders, local experts, and researchers. It was coinitiated by the Inuit community of Kangiqsualujjuaq (Nunavik, Quebec) and university researchers. This hands-on and land-based program aims to establish a sustainable environmental monitoring program of the George River, before the start of a rare earth elements (REEs) mining project in its upper watershed. The community was concerned about potential impacts on the river, as it is crucial to fishing, hunting, and gathering. The community therefore wanted its own independent and long-term environmental monitoring program to collect baseline data and promote local capacity-building. IMALIRIJIIT includes water-quality measurements, bio-indicators, contaminant and REE biomonitoring in traditional food, remote-sensing analysis of water-quality parameters and vegetation change at the watershed scale, as well as interactive mapping of traditional ecological. IMALIRIJIIT outcomes and challenges are discussed to identify conditions for successful implementation of CBEM and environmental stewardship.