Peace-Athabasca Delta

Mouth of Mamawi Creek. Photo credit - Jason Straka

PartnerPeace-Athabasca Delta Ecological Monitoring Program (PAD-EMP)
StudentSarah Baines, MES Candidate
Academic advisorsToddi Steelman (University of Saskatchewan) and Lalita Bharadwaj (University of Saskatchewan)

Project Description

Fresh water is necessary for Aboriginal peoples to maintain their traditional ways of living, but these traditional ways are being affected by changing water availability (von der Porten and de Loë, 2014).  To protect their ways of living, Aboriginal peoples are increasingly defending their rights that are recognized in Canada’s laws (von der Porten and de Loë, 2014).  If governments make a policy that might affect Aboriginal rights, they must first engage with the potentially affected Aboriginal peoples.  As a result, water use policy-makers must understand how to address Aboriginal rights in their decisions.  However, very little research has been done on how to introduce Aboriginal rights and customs into policy-making processes (von der Porten and de Loë, 2014).  In particular, the research aims to determine the barriers and opportunities, and ways of overcoming the barriers to combining Aboriginal rights based and federal and provincial water policies (von der Porten and de Loë, 2014).

To achieve the research purpose, a case study approach will be used.  The case study selected is “Aboriginal Base Flow” (ABF), a water policy developed by the Mikisew Cree (MDFN) and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations (ACFN) to guide government decisions about water use from the lower Athabasca River in northern Alberta (Candler, Olson, & DeRoy, 2010).  ABF is the minimum flow necessary to allow boats to travel down river channels that lead to traditional hunting and fishing grounds (Candler, Olson, & DeRoy, 2010).  Data will be gathered by interviewing First Nations elders and leaders, and provincial and federal government officials.  Data will be shared during a workshop with the MCFN and ACFN after the data has been analyzed.

This research will add to our knowledge about ways of effectively introducing Aboriginal rights into water use policy processes.  Documenting the ABF approach creates an opportunity for other Aboriginal peoples to learn from and adapt the idea to suit their needs.  The MCFN and ACFN can build on the knowledge gained to develop an action plan for advancing ABF as a policy.

For updates on Sarah's project, read her trip reports to Fort Chipewyan in the ""What's New" section

Presentations and publications 

For more information, contact:

  • Sarah Baines, MES Candidate - sjb654[at]