Obtaining your Research Licences and Permits

Without exception, all research in the Northwest Territories (NWT) must be licensed. This includes work in the physical, social and biological sciences, as well as in traditional knowledge and health, and applies to all researchers – including those working for government agencies. Through the licensing process, information about your work is shared with northern residents and organizations.


You are advised to submit your licence application, and all other relevant applications, at least 3 months prior to when you want to start doing fieldwork.

How many licences do I need to submit?

Research licensing in the NWT involves authorities at local, territorial and federal levels. The number of licence applications that you will need to submit varies depending on the scope, methods and location of your planned fieldwork. Typically, a large multi-disciplinary study that takes place in several locations scattered across the NWT would require more permits and licences than a small, more specific project - but that is not always the case.


The general objective of the research licensing and permitting processes is to avoid harm to the natural, social and cultural environments of the NWT. Many of these processes also include provisions to ensure that local communities are well informed of upcoming research projects, and that the knowledge resulting from the studies returns to the communities. While some of the regulatory bodies focus on technical reviews and/or environmental assessments, others work with local representatives to address community concerns and ensure communication between researchers and community groups.

What differentiates the NWT research licensing processes from those in most parts of the Canadian provinces is the inclusion of community consultation throughout the licensing processes.

The Regulatory Bodies

As an introduction, research licensing in the NWT can be simplified as follows:

  • Territorial authorities: all research needs a territorial research permit or licence (with a few exceptions);
  • Land authorities: if the research project will take place on private lands, authorization is required.  If the research project is of a size or scope that will exceed certain thresholds, a land use permit and/or a water licence is required both on private and public lands;
  • Federal authorities and other permits: these are permits specific to the scope and location of the research, and for the most part are not particular to the NWT – they apply to research done throughout Canada.

At a territorial level, all research conducted in the NWT will require permits from at least one of these three agencies: the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Wildlife Division, the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, or the Aurora Research Institute.

Remember that, depending on the methods, location and scope of your research, you may need additional territorial and federal permits, authorization to access aboriginal private lands , land use permits, or water licences.

For a quick summary of licences and approvals you may need for your research project, go to the .

Ensure that your research location is only within the NWT. If your research will also take place in either Nunavut or the Yukon, you will have to apply for licences in those territories as well.