Community Engagement

Cumberland House Delta

The Integrated Modelling Program for Canada’s ongoing partnership with the Cumberland House Delta’s majority-Indigenous community both exemplifies the facilitatory role academia can play in a multi-stakeholder setting with competing water interest and highlights the challenges of fitting evolving scientific research priorities with community needs and expectations.

IMPC researchers have had a long-lasting relationship with the Cumberland House Community that has allowed the IMPC team at large to  try and better understand the community's concerns. Project researchers regularly attend meetings at the Northern Village of Cumberland House whenever possible to present on modelling progress and get feedback on making the project’s work to  explore creative ways of communicating research back to the Cumberland House community in a way that is meaningful to them. Although this is an ongoing process, over the past three years of the project, IMPC has been working to enhance its collaborative efforts between the delta stewards, community ambassadors and researchers, including a computer science lead, water modellers, social scientist, and an ecological expert.

These collaborative efforts have led to the release of the pilot version of IMPC’s User-Centric Decision Support System “UC-DSS” that was also debuted by the IMPC user engagement team at the Cumberland House Delta Stewardship Committee meetings to gauge community interest for similar tools and receive feedback. This DSS tool has the capability to demonstrate historical hydrographs; three pilot ecosystem performance indicators; increased or decreased supply-demand scenarios; as well as georeferenced photos and audio clips extracted from in-depth interviews done with 14 elder outfitters and land experts in 2019 to holistically capture the impact of flow changes on the residents of Cumberland House and their cultural values associated with the delta ecosystem. This fits into the project’s more expansive efforts in co-creating and co-presenting with its partner communities and stakeholders at large. As an example, the Delta community residents co-presented along with the researchers working on Cumberland House at IMPC’s virtual 3rd annual meeting that was attended by members from SaskPower and Saskatchewan Water Security Agency, and this opened up conversations between these organizations and community members with a level of engagement that had not always been possible before. 


Delta Dialogues - Finding a Way Forward

The IMPC team intends on maintaining a consistent presence in facilitating conciliatory dialogues to help build stronger academic-community-industry relationships. The Delta Dialogue meetings are meant to serve as an open platform for stakeholders and rights holders in the Saskatchewan River Basin Delta to:

  • Discuss the downstream impacts on livelihoods from the Delta residents’ perspectives.
  • Clarify questions on the range of upstream decision-making constraints from a management and operations perspective.
  • Make requests for information needed by Delta residents or others.
  • Negotiate and co-create communication strategies going forward to build a working relationship between Cumberland House Community, SaskPower and Saskatchewan Water Security Agency.
  • Respond to one another and identify opportunities to collaborate on collective stewardship going forward.
The opening conversation meeting for the series was held on 14th August 2020 and was meant to set up grounds for a more extensive and continued two-way dialogue between stakeholders. Since August 2020, six virtual meetings have been held, attended by 30 to 50 participants and have brought together community members (primarily from Cumberland House Delta) with various stakeholder groups, including SaskPower, Water Security Agency, DFO, Ministry of Environment, and other local stakeholder groups (DUC, CPAWS, PAMF).

A third-party facilitator was also solicited by Drs. Jardine and Strickert through IMPC in partnership with SaskPower to act as a mediator in these meetings and maintain neutrality of the GWF project in a multistakeholder context. A set of Terms of References has now been drafted and distributed to the group to further agree upon a common vision for long-term purpose, structure, and the framework of these meetings or more importantly, the resulting multistakeholder coordination and network of people that have been consistently involved.

The virtual meeting format and coordination practices have received positive feedback with participants showing strong interest in utilizing this platform to share updates and communicate progress and answer questions on ongoing and future activities relevant to the SRD stakeholders and residents.

If you have any questions, please contact Laila Balkhi at laila.balkhi@usask.ca