One of the ICNGD and New North’s strategy sessions in June of 2016. Photo by Chelsea Laskowski.

This is Part 3 in a series on the International Centre for Northern Governance and Development.

Part 1 can be accessed here. Part 2 can be accessed here.

A northern Saskatchewan strategy is caught in a funding crunch.

The U of S’s International Centre for Northern Governance and Development (ICNGD) was spearheading the strategy in partnership with New North and already looking for extra funding to move ahead when its staff was blindsided by a provincial decision to cut 100 per cent of its $1.1 million in funding for the school. ICNGD offers two different master’s degrees.

Now, the U of S says it is exploring its options on how the ICNGD programs can continue to be offered, but its provost is already warning that he can’t see a way forward that keeps the programs in their current form.

Mental health is one of the major topics the ICNGD is already studying in relation to the New Northern Strategy after holding two past strategy sessions in Prince Albert. The ICNGD has identified six priority areas for the north and research officer Paola Chiste asked municipal leaders for their ideas on what the ICNGD should research in order to benefit their communities and help build their capacity to tackle social and economic issues.

Chiste said they were applying for grants to visit communities and get direct feedback in the north in what is an admittedly long process.

“It takes a long time to implement these things, it’s not something that you can say ‘hey, let’s try this’ and then everyone follows you. It does take time and there has to be funding in place, you have to get community support, we have to get the word out,” she said.

However, the provincial funding cut has made her fear this community-driven research will fall to the wayside.

“It would be shame for it to be cut right now before we really had a chance to see it do what it can do,” Chiste said.

Right now, there are a lot of questions on what will happen with this research. Although current students will be able to finish their master’s, there is no word yet on whether the university will take new admissions into ICNGD’s programs.

Chiste spoke with MBC in April and has since been told to direct media calls to the ICNGD’s overseeing school, the Johnson-Shomoya Graduate School of Public Policy, which is currently reviewing future options for ICNGD’s programming. A decision is still weeks away.

Current student Billie Jo Natomagan said there is no one doing first-hand research in the province’s north aside from the ICNGD.

“This is first-hand data that we’re collecting. Personally, I think that the provincial government would want this because it’s information about the entire northern population,” she said.

Past graduate Brandon White said it seems like the program’s capacity-building efforts were lost on the province.