Developing a network to support Indigenous involvement in the environmental services industry


Indigenous communities and companies, Government, ENGOs and Industry



Participants in the 2015 Environmental Monitoring Technician Training
Program pilot are now certified Ice Safety Rescue Technicians.


Alberta’s Indigenous communities are increasingly looking for ways to become effectively involved in environmental monitoring and management. For example, while resource companies and governments would like to support the local economy by using local companies for environmental services, the shortage of qualified people is a significant barrier to full scale business growth for many Indigenous environmental services companies. With Canada’s commitment to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous people with environmental monitoring training and experience will be required to facilitate meaningful participation in resource development decisions.



Annette Ozirny learns water quality monitoring at Lake Wabamun.

InnoTech Alberta has established an Aboriginal Environmental Services Network (AESN). The program fulfills an industry, government and community need for skilled people, available locally, to conduct environmental monitoring, data collection, water and soil sampling, vegetation management, reclamation, forest regeneration, wildlife monitoring and management, assessment and reporting.

The network forms a hub for management, communication, resource sharing and promotion of Indigenous participation in the delivery of environmental services. It coordinates appropriate practical training for field technicians, and provides advisory services for Indigenous communities that wish to conduct community-based monitoring or establish environmental service companies.

The main deliverable from Phase I of the AESN (2013-2014) was a Business Case based on market research, stakeholder interviews, and a workshop held to explore the development of the Network and its potential activities. The conclusion from Phase I was that the proposed approach of internship-based training along with stakeholder communication and support of Indigenous environmental service providers can facilitate development and expansion of this industry.

For Phase II (2015-2017), one of the first activities of the Network was the development of a training pilot to enable Indigenous community members to work in environmental monitoring service crews. InnoTech collaborated with AEMERA to conceptualize and deliver the Environmental Monitoring Technician Training Program pilot for First Nations and Métis Communities in Northeastern Alberta. Fifteen representatives from 8 Indigenous communities, and approximately 35 science and monitoring staff from the Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency (AEMERA), InnoTech and the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute (ABMI) participated in the 2015 Environmental Monitoring Technician Training Program pilot. The 5-week training program focused on safety, water quality monitoring and wildlife monitoring.  All 15 participants successfully completed the training program, and joined in a program celebration upon completion. As part of the safety training, they received certifications in bear and wildlife awareness and avoidance, ATV (All-Terrain Vehicle) operation, standard first aid with level “C” CPR, water safety-swift water (3-day advanced technician), WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System) 2015, Transportation of Dangerous Goods (TDG) Ground, defensive driving, ice safety and rescue (2-day advanced technician) and collision avoidance.
Click on both the above microphones to hear two different sound  clips from the CKUA Radio feature on the Alberta Environmental Services Network.

The pilot program demonstrated that our approach to training in Indigenous communities increased community participation in environmental monitoring. Outcomes of the training program included expansion in the sites monitored in Indigenous communities, submission of a multi-year proposal to initiate a community-based wildlife monitoring program, and employment of some trainees by Indigenous communities. Another key success of this pilot was the personal connections that were built amongst the trainees, their communities, and the trainers.

With the AESN gaining traction among Indigenous communities, government and industry, in 2016 plans included the set-up, operation and communication of the Network, as well as training for another cohort of individuals.

"These sessions were all amazing, and I will use them in my personal and professional life. I have also determined that I will pursue further training for the outdoors."
- Training participant - 2015 Environmental Monitoring Technical Training Program pilot.


Aboriginal Internship for Land Stewardship Program

InnoTech had previously built a successful model for involving Indigenous communities in the decision making process with government and industry on land resource management issues. Nine young leaders are now recognized as Land Stewards and Consultation Managers in their communities.

InnoTech's Aboriginal Internship for Land Stewardship Program ran from 2005-2010, with interns from Indigenous communities around the province. The community-based, practice-oriented training program empowered interns with scientific and technical knowledge for use as land stewards, including GPS mapping procedures, water sampling, land reclamation, managing traditional land use information and environmental legislation. The land stewards now serve to bridge communication between their communities, government and industry, balancing science with traditional wisdom.


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Shauna-Lee Chai, Ph.D, P.Biol.
Tel: 780-450-5175/780-632-8208
shauna-lee chai@albertainnovates.ca

Shauna-Lee Chai bio