Nunavut Search and Rescue (NSAR) Project: Supporting Inuit Health and Well-Being, Food Security, Economic Development, and Community Resilience

In Nunavut, community-based Search and Rescue (SAR) Committees, Ground SAR teams, Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary units, Civil Air SAR Association members, Inuit Marine Monitors, Inuit Guardians, and the Canadian Rangers undertake a very challenging task: providing 24/7 response capabilities, 365 days a year in an austere operating environment, with few resources, and little external assistance. Inuit SAR responders face serious challenges and have requested the development of more robust prevention methods, skill and capacity building, better cooperation and communication with external agencies, and thorough investigation of physical and human SAR infrastructure requirements. They have also emphasized the need to ensure Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit / Qaujimaningit (IQ) is at the foundation of Nunavut’s SAR systems and infrastructure.

In the rapidly changing Arctic environment, SAR capabilities and infrastructure will only become more essential and the challenges, concerns, and areas for capacity building identified by community responders in Nunavut need to be effectively and comprehensively addressed. An effective SAR system: 1) is a vital adaptation tool to help communities cope with Arctic climate change; 2) constitutes critical infrastructure required to support Inuit health and well-being; 3) is a necessary foundation for safe harvesting activities to address food insecurity. Strong SAR capabilities are also a prerequisite to economic development in the region and are required to bolster community resilience. The NSAR project embraces the core laws, principles, and practices of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit / Qaujimaningit (IQ) to employ a comprehensive research strategy aimed at strengthening Nunavut’s whole-of-society SAR system through capacity and skill building, and by creating a decision support model for current and future planning, preparation, and infrastructure development grounded in IQ and reflecting Inuit values. Specifically, we will:
a) Create new knowledge about the core strengths possessed by SAR responders in Nunavut, the challenges they face, and on best practices for SAR preparedness, prevention, and response. b) Develop innovative solutions, suggestions for human and physical infrastructure development, and new policy as well as novel community-based approaches that build off and enhance these strengths and address these challenges. c) Ensure that IQ and Inuit land safety knowledge are the foundation of the SAR system. To achieve these aims, the NSAR project’s multidisciplinary research team will build on four pillars rooted in core IQ values and laws. The first is Piliriqatigiingniq and Aajiiqatigiinniq, which will use regional roundtables to strengthen SAR relationships to build consensus on how to improve SAR in Nunavut. The second project pillar is Pilimmaksarniq, which will involve developing practical knowledge and skills for the organization, administration, and execution of community-based SAR operations. The third pillar, Maligait and the SAR System Model, will create a comprehensive model to facilitate continuous SAR planning and preparations for the future. Finally, the fourth pillar, Qanuqtuurniq, will support ongoing innovation and improvement in SAR operations. The NSAR project will strengthen the relationships, facilitate the knowledge creation, develop the skills, identify the required infrastructure, and enable the innovative planning and preparation required to support Inuit as the first responders in Arctic SAR.

Grant reference
Natural Environment Research Council
Total awarded
£492,524 GBP
Start date
5 May 2022
2 years 11 months 30 days
End date
4 May 2025