Examining Climate Change Adaptation in Nunatsiavut

Nia King copyWritten by Nia King, BScH Candidate Starting at 330am, it was a good day -- it was mild outside with clear skies and a light snow. After a cat nap at the airport and then arriving to the cash register at Tim's, only to be told that the gentleman in front of me had paid for my tea, I was off to Montreal for a day of meetings regarding an Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada and Ouranos contract for a report addressing climate change adaptation in Nunavik and Nunatsiavut. Upon arrival to Montreal, I quickly realized that Guelph campus is not exactly representative of most universities (ie. you can't just wander McGill campus waiting to stumble on the building for which you are looking). Nevertheless, it was a gorgeous cold winter day out, which I've been missing given that I'm from Ottawa and Guelph has been so mild, and after asking numerous students for directions, I made it to the meeting and we started with a productive group meeting working alongside Ouranos team members to establish the project deliverables and timelines. I had the pleasure of spending the day collaborating with one of James Ford's students, Cheenar, with whom I'll be working closely for the upcoming two months. After the initial group meeting, Cheenar and I spent the day finalizing our methodologies such that the Nunavik and Nunatsiavut report sections are easily comparable. While I was only in Montreal for 10 hours, I'm already excited for the project to come and to get to collaborate further with members from the Ford Lab and Ouranos!

Carlee Attends "Water Innovations for Health Arctic Homes"

Written by Carlee Wright, MSc Candidate Anchorage, Alaska | Sept 18-21, 2016

September has been a non-stop month full of school-related travel, and I am very fortunate to have recently returned from the Water Innovations for Healthy Arctic Homes (WIHAH) conference in Anchorage, Alaska (http://wihah2016.com) The Arctic Council Sustainable Development Working Group has endorsed a project titled “Improving Health through Safe and Affordable Access to Household Running Water and Sewer in Arctic and Sub-Arctic communities”, with the WIHAH conference comprising one of its objectives.

This conference was a vital opportunity for community members, professionals, and researchers from the United States, Canada, and Greenland to come together and discuss all aspects of drinking water in northern communities. Despite being developed nations with high overall service rates for household water and sewerage, many people living in rural and remote areas experience lower service rates, and face issues with accessing clean water in adequate quantities. Over 3000 homes in rural Alaska do not have any piped water, and instead rely on honey buckets and hauling drinking water home from central watering points in the community. Collection and storage of drinking water in containers also occurs in Rigolet, Nunatsiavut (The community with which I have worked), and so I was very interested in attending presentations and sharing my own research with such a diverse audience.

Over the 4-day program I was able to meet Alaska natives, economists, microbiologists, engineers, health researchers, and many others who were passionate about improving access to safe water in northern communities. Hearing about the realities of living without running water in some communities, and the immense resources required to provide water and sanitation services was overwhelming at times; however, it was also inspiring to hear success stories and learn about innovations and progress being made. For example, the Alaska water and sewage challenge (http://watersewerchallenge.alaska.gov) is a competition to develop affordable and sustainable water and waste systems that can be implemented in rural Alaskan villages (and hopefully other communities in the future). The challenge is down to three finalists, who unveiled their prototypes at the conference; I was even able to see a functioning prototype at the University of Alaska Anchorage campus!

Finally, a trip to Alaska cannot be complete without some outdoor fun, and so my trip concluded with a day cruise through Prince William Sound. It was a misty day (which happened to make everything look even more astonishing under the low-lying clouds), and although I have yet to see a moose on my two trips to Alaska, I was lucky enough to see bald eagles, belugas, otters, and orcas while out on the water. Getting so close to glaciers and appreciating their size and natural beauty is also something that I am not likely to forget any time soon!

This conference was an amazing opportunity to reconnect, make new acquaintances, learn, and think critically about water management and the future of water and sanitation in northern communities. For this I am incredibly grateful, and in the future I hope that I can continue to take part in more collaborative and transdisciplinary events such as WIHAH.

More resources:


Hennessy TW, Bressler JM. Improving health in the Arctic region through safe and affordable access to household running water and sewer services: an Arctic Council initiative. Int J Circumpolar Health. 2016;1:1-6.


When in Rome, learn about epi!

Written by Julia Bryson At the tail end of the summer I had the exciting opportunity to attend the annual congress of the International Society on Environmental Epidemiology (ISEE) in Rome, Italy. The title of the conference, “Old and new risks: challenges for environmental epidemiology,” set the tone for what was to be a productive meeting of researchers, experts, policy-makers, public health professionals, and students coming together to discuss the identification and mitigation of environmental hazards to health, from past to future.

Upon arriving, I was quick to notice that the proportion of students amongst the attendees was quite low. Needless to say, as an undergraduate student in a crowd of seasoned experts and renowned researchers, I felt decidedly ‘out of my league’. However, I came to realize that everyone was there to learn, and while I had more of that to do than others, my participation and abilities were not to be discounted by my relative lack of experience. With this in mind, I tackled the three packed days ahead.

Over the weekend, I was happy to discover that the conference featured several parallel sessions and posters on the impacts of climate change on human health; these provided me with valuable information and perspective as I pursue my systematic review investigating the influences of climate change on the neglected tropical diseases in East Africa. Many of these researchers have faced the same barriers that I am dealing with, including the dearth of research in populations of low socioeconomic status and the sometimes lacking quality of data collected in unstable, resource-poor populations where conditions are hard to control. It was encouraging to see others working through these obstacles and forming important conclusions that may help to shape policy for future.

It came as a surprise to me, but the discussions around policy and ethics in environmental epidemiology were perhaps most engaging and valuable to me as a new student in the field. These talks ranged in topic from the role of the epidemiologist in the justice system, to the ethics of data sharing and communication with the public. Provocative questions were posed that I had never considered, such as ‘How do we reconcile the definition of “significant” in the field of research (often set at a level of 5% or 1% probability that results are due to chance), with that of the legal system, where a 51%-49% split or ‘more probable than not’ is the accepted standard?’ and, ‘How do we balance the demands of policy-makers and the public for results now with the reality that epidemiological studies often take years to complete?’ These questions forced me to think critically about the issues at hand and they exposed me to new philosophies and challenges within epidemiology. It was also reassuring that for these questions everyone in the room was having trouble coming to a solution! Some fascinating debates resulted.

Without doubt, I came away from ISEE will many ‘big ideas’ about this field of research. I learned that in epidemiology, there is always the need for more research as populations and exposures change. I learned the importance of understanding how to convey risks transparently and with context when your ultimate audience is the public. I learned how significant community health policy partnerships are to ensuring that research is able to facilitate positive change, which often happens outside of the lab through the courts or government. My attendance also helped to highlight areas for growth, particularly my understanding of different epidemiological methodologies and analytical models. A stronger foundation in these areas will help me to improve my comprehension and appreciation of others’ work, and better understand how I can strengthen my own research.

In the end, it sometimes seems like I left this conference with more questions than I arrived with. But in many ways, that was one of my aspirations! I attended ISEE 2016 to expose myself to different areas in epidemiology, to challenge myself with new concepts, and to be inspired as I move forward with my research. I am happy to say that my attendance accomplished these goals and more. I have no doubt that what I have learned as a result of this experience, and what it has encouraged me to learn about in the future, will be of great value. And with that – Ciao, Roma, e grazie mille per tutti!


Photos by Moreno Maggi (http://www.morenomaggi.com/en/) and Julia Bryson.

And then we made a podcast… Adventures in integrative knowledge mobilization

Written by Lindsay Day, MSc Candidate It was with great excitement that we launched the “Water Dialogues” podcast last week at www.WaterDialogues.ca.

Nearly a year in the making, the collaborative podcast is based on a Canadian Water Network-funded project, and examines the need for, and our struggle towards, using Indigenous and Western knowledge systems together to address the water issues we face in Canada today.

Audio-recordings were taken during a Water Gathering event that brought together First Nations, Inuit, Metis and non-Indigenous water experts, researchers, and knowledge holders from across Canada.

This Water Gathering was the second of two that were held as part of the 18-month research project. Held at the Wabano Aboriginal Health Centre in Ottawa (traditional Algonquin territory), the format was a series of sharing circles, where every person has a turn to speak and all voices are valued equally.

Using a narrative, audio-documentary format, the podcast weaves together the voices, stories and experiences of those that attended the Gathering in order to explore the key issues and findings from the project.

The result is something powerful, moving, and definitely worth a listen.


Follow the conversation on Twitter: #H2Odialogues











A huge thank you to all the podcast team members: Dr. Sherilee Harper, Dr. Ashlee Cunsolo, Dr. Heather Castleden, Dr. Debbie Martin, Catherine Hart, Tim Anaviapik-Soucie, George Russell Jr., Clifford Paul. And of course, to all the amazing people who shared their words, stories, wisdom, ideas and knowledge at the Water Gathering and in the podcast.

Listen and learn more at www.WaterDialogues.ca.


A Tale of Two Conferences

Written by Alexandra Sawatzky, PhD Student During the week of April 25, I had the privilege of attending and presenting at two conferences: the Sparking Population Health Solutions International Summit in Ottawa, and the Transforming Health Care in Remote Communities conference in Edmonton. These incredible experiences, although separated by approximately 3500 kilometers, did an outstanding job of bringing people and their ideas together. I had Great Expectations for these conferences, which ended up being exceeded in every way possible.

Tale #1: Sparking Solutions

JPEG image-CBA9877DF633-1The purpose of this Summit was to unpack and examine the wealth of knowledge we currently have about population health problems. To do this, individuals were brought together from across various sectors to challenge, catalyze, ignite, debate, stimulate, and accelerate ideas surrounding population-oriented solutions for a healthier future.

Soon after my arrival, I quickly discovered I was one of only a handful of students in attendance. Predominantly, the crowd consisted of government representatives, policy-makers, and researchers – all important decision-makers, and all of whom had substantially more experience than me. Needless to say, I felt a little intimidated.

At the same time, I felt inspired to use this conference as an opportunity to soak up as much information from as many people as possible, as well as continue to develop some of my own perspectives on some of the issues being discussed. I slowly realized that despite my lack of experience, people genuinely wanted to hear my perspectives as much as I wanted to hear theirs.

During the first plenary session, the presenters asked simple, yet provocative questions that encouraged all of us to start to challenge our previously-held perspectives on various population health problems and associated solutions. Questions such as: why the sudden need to refocus and “spark” new solutions? Why do we feel that there are currently no solutions? Whose solutions matter? These provocations proved to be recurring themes for the rest of the conference.

As discussions surrounding these themes evolved, I found myself beginning to think more critically about current approaches to population health research, policy, and practice. As Dr. Mark Petticrew1 expressed in his plenary session, those working in the realm of population health often find themselves to be “prisoners of the proximate,” concerned mainly with the outer layers of population health problems. In reality, these problems possess deep, complex roots, meaning we need to dig a little deeper if we want to develop effective and sustainable solutions. Dr. Petticrew went on to suggest that the entire population health research system needs to be redesigned so that our focus is upstream, or at the root of the health problems that populations are facing.

A major barrier to this whole-system overhaul is the fact that most people (researchers included) are constrained by the limitations of their own knowledge and biases, and have the tendency to be over-reliant on a single way of knowing about the world (their own). In her plenary talk, Dr. Jennie Popay2 said this over-reliance on single perspectives needs to change – we need to make more of an effort to include multiple knowledge sources in the work we do. Indeed, the only way to fully understand the context and complexities of population health issues is by drawing upon the practical knowledge that is intrinsic to the specific populations we work with. We have an obligation to learn from the people who experience the world in different ways than we do.

It’s important to remember that learning about (and from) different perspectives is not about finding out who is “right” or “wrong,” it’s about engaging in dialogue and understanding where the other person’s knowledge about a certain issue comes from, and subsequently respecting that person as a knowledge-holder. Furthermore, new knowledge needs to be co-produced and merged throughout the entire research process, and this sort of “blended knowledge” holds the potential for greater positive impacts and lasting solutions.

Dr. Penny Hawe3 took this idea one step forward and suggested that researchers should not actually be taking credit for the solutions they help to develop. After all, if researchers follow true community-based, participatory approaches, the credit should ultimately go to the community – those groups of people who develop and implement solutions to problems they themselves identify. Essentially, the idea is that researchers should not take ownership, or demand thanks, for the outcomes of collaborative, community-driven efforts. Dr. Hawe emphasized that there is a great deal of humility in thinking about ways to harness the power of a community in this type of research. In order to fully capture and utilize this power, research needs to move beyond the walls of academic institutions and into communities. To breach these walls, communities must not only be in control of the research, but must also be given the credit they deserve.

In the final plenary session, Dr. Hawe singled out my team’s research project as an example of effective and meaningful community-driven population health research. It took me a moment to fully clue in that she was talking about our project, and once I did I felt a wave of gratitude wash over me. To be working with a team that places the needs, goals, and priorities of communities at the heart of everything they do is an immense privilege, and is helping to shape who I am in my research and beyond.

After all this discussion about sparking population health solutions, it’s important to ask what “solutions” even mean in the context of research, policy, and practice. The language surrounding the concept of “solutions” implies that there is an end-goal, or a static outcome that is the result of problem-solving efforts. However, solutions should be viewed as generative processes that evolve alongside population dynamics, and need to be maintained in order to stay relevant and effective.

Continuing to engage in dialogue about problems and solutions in population health is crucial. Individual researchers cannot possibly “solve” complex solutions on their own. Similarly, governments and policy-makers cannot make decisions on their own. Coming together and learning from one another at conferences such as such as this one can serve as an opportunity to challenge each other to spark creative and innovative solutions to population health problems, as well as hold each other accountable to continue feeding the flames.

Tale #2: Transforming Health Care

After a couple days of sparking population health solutions in Ottawa, I hopped on a plane to Edmonton to attend conference number two – “Transforming Health Care in Remote Communities.” In addition to switching time zones, I was switching gears slightly to focus specifically on health and health-care challenges as they pertained to remote communities in Canada, Nordic countries, Greenland, Alaska, Russia, and Australia.

An opening prayer and song from Elder Be’sha Blondin4 set the stage for what would be a humbling, emotional, and inspiring couple of days. This truly was a beautiful moment – to be standing in a room filled with individuals from around the world, with the steady beat of Be’sha’s drum making us feel as though all our hearts were beating as one. Later that day, Be’sha gave an incredibly profound and powerful talk about connecting and reconnecting the land and culture in order to be well. She emphasized that the land provides all that is needed for good health – freedom, and healing. When people are out on the land, they are their best selves. It is therefore important to work on, and help each other achieve this sense of wellness that is intrinsically woven into each and every one of our souls. Be’sha ended her talk by stating that working together in a holistic way will not only improve health and health care in rural and remote communities, it will heal the world.

This theme of holistic approaches to health care was among several other themes that had been brought up at the Sparking Solutions Summit in Ottawa, and that resonated throughout many of the presentations at this conference in Edmonton as well. I found this congruency to be fascinating, especially considering that at this conference, delegates included researchers, clinicians, managers, policy makers, service providers and representatives of industry, non-governmental organizations and indigenous communities from vastly different parts of the world. I think this just goes to show that despite the diversity of geographic locales, we still share many common stories and values when we talk about health and health care within and between populations – remote or otherwise.

When discussing remote communities, it’s important to think the weight of the term “remote,” and what that community is “remote” in relation to. Places that we consider to be remote are in fact places that someone else considers to be home. Moreover, in the context of population health, remoteness is often constructed as problematic, as pathology – it is a barrier that needs to be worked around in order to improve health and health care systems, it is a barrier to improvement. There is therefore a need to design new systems. Instead of trying to adjust current approaches to health care so that they work in remote communities, these approaches need to be redesigned so that the remoteness of a community is a defining characteristic, or core component, of an entirely new system; remoteness should be framed as an opportunity, not a barrier.

Dr. Graeme Maguire5, in his keynote address, said that designing health care policies for “everyone” – using a one-size-fits-all approach – is not effective. Essentially, “remote” should not be used a pejorative term. Just because a community is remote does not mean it is disadvantaged. Remote places are simply just another type of cultural landscape where the environment, community and cultural issues intersect in unique and interconnected ways. Understanding that we need to move beyond anecdote-driven policy that often perpetuates disadvantage, and seek to focus our attention on those who are often forgotten in health care systems.

Transforming health care involves transforming knowledge relationships between the people, places, policies, costs, data, links, and tools that both determine and support the health of communities. Reverse innovation, an idea brought up by Dr. Maguire, involves the multidirectional knowledge translation and exchange within and across groups. Equity-focused health indicators are needed to inform and evaluate inclusive health care policy and practice. Focusing on equity necessarily means focusing on the upstream determinants of health, as transformational change cannot be driven from downstream. There are many barriers to initiating these types of changes, particularly due to competing priorities of different partners, and fragmented systems that make it difficult to work to align these priorities. Furthermore, whether we’re working upstream or downstream of population health problems, the “stream” itself is moving fast. Thus, we need cohesive, collaborative action. We need to foster healthy, supportive partnerships in order to not only navigate through this fast-moving stream of challenges, but to start to redirect it towards more meaningful and lasting solutions.

What happens when partnerships are made between researchers and Indigenous communities, and what is needed to help make these partnerships work? In a word, trust. Trust is fragile. It is hard to gain and easy to lose. It is built upon a foundation of shared values, honesty, patience, and intergenerational humility. Trust is very intimate and needs to be earned.

A panel presentation by the CANHelp Working Group – a group of researchers from the Univerity of Alberta and community partners from the Yukon as well as the NWT – expanded on this essential need for trust between all stakeholders involved in research projects. The panel emphasized that researchers need to balance academic needs for discourse and outcomes with community needs for meeting the goals and priorities they themselves initially set out. Moreover, as partners in research efforts, communities need to hold researchers accountable for their actions. Both the intentions and end-results of research are equally important, and researchers must continue to build and maintain trust even after a project is finished.

Researchers must approach their relationships with communities from a place of humility, with a willingness to learn and participate. I believe that actively working to achieve this balance is a way of showing a community that they can indeed trust you to be a good researcher, and a good person. The overarching theme of this last panel discussion, and of the conference in general, was that it’s not enough to participate in community-based research. Researchers need to participate in community.



  1. Mark Petticrew is a professor of Public Health Evaluation in the Faculty of Public Health and Policy at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK.
  2. Jennie Popay is a professor of Sociology and Public Health at Lancaster University, UK.
  3. Penny Hawe is a professor and co-lead investigator of the NHMRC Australian Prevention Partnership Centre.
  4. Be’sha Blondin is a Sahtu Dene Elder from Tulita, Northwest Territories with forty years of experience in Indigenous traditional healing and living in harmony and balance.
  5. Graeme Maguire is a professor and head of clinical research at Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne and Alice Springs, Australia.

Rebecca Wolff Presents at 2016 Consortium of Universities for Global Health!

Congratulations to Rebecca Wolff for sharing her research results at the 2016 Consortium of Universities for Global Health in San Francisco! Poster citation:  Wolff, R., Harper, S.L., Carcamo, C., Bussalleu Cavero, A., IHACC Research Team, and Llanos-Cuentas, A. (April 2016). “Its spirit is strong:” Shawi Spirits, Healers & Diarrhea in the Peruvian Amazon. Consortium of Universities for Global Health 2016 Conference, San Francisco, USA.

Wolff Poster

Student Reflection: ArcticNet ASM 2015 – Vancouver, BC December 7-11, 2015

Written by Carlee Wright, MSc Candidate

Last week, along with several other lab mates, I had the opportunity to travel to Vancouver for the 11th ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting (ASM). This was my second year attending ArcticNet ASM, and once again I was impressed by all the different aspects of the conference!

Student day was packed full of sessions centered around the theme of professional development, and during this time we were also able to meet other graduate students and learn about the work they are doing. It was great to see familiar faces around the conference during the course of the week!

With so many different topical sessions it was hard to decide which ones to attend. Through the talks I learned about many different research projects, from fox rabies to muskox health, and even Arctic search and rescue! Although my research is water-focused, I really enjoyed listening to talks on topics different from my own; seeing the vast range of work being done is exciting, and it helps me to put my own work in perspective in the scope of Arctic research at large.

The ArcticNet Student Association also organized a great cultural night, where we could either make a seal skin bracelet, try our hand at beading patterns, or play traditional Inuit games. It had a great turnout and was a really fun way to relax after a long week of events and topical sessions.

This year's ArcticNet ASM was once again a great experience, and I look forward to being able to attend again in the future!

Student Reflection: ArcticNet ASM 2015 – Vancouver, BC December 7-11, 2015

Written by Manpreet Saini, MSc Candidate

This past week I was fortunate enough to attend and participate in the ArcticNet Scientific Meeting. This conference was overall, a great experience and I probably will not be able to do my experience justice with the following reflection. The week started with Student Day on Monday and I was privileged to attend the workshop titled “How Researchers Can Maximize Engagement with Traditional Knowledge (TK) and Communities”. This workshop was led by Shelly Elverum, Eric Solomon, and Inuit individuals including, Mia Otokiak, Coral Westwood, and Andrew Arreak. The most interesting part of the workshop was an activity that demonstrated the difference in worldviews and perceptions when thinking of issues Northern Inuit communities face. First, the audience had to list issues that we believed were important to Northern Inuit communities. Following this the Inuit youth listed the issues their communities had identified. While some of the things listed by each group were similar to one another, some were different. For instance, the Inuit communities were quite concerned with garbage collection and yet the researchers did not have this on their list. It was humbling to see this difference and it was a reminder of the importance to understand different worldviews without projecting your own worldview as the only "true" worldview. It was a great discussion session that made me once again reflect on the importance of the language that researchers use and the way in which researchers approach projects for Inuit communities.

Over a period of time on Tuesday and Wednesday evening, we had the opportunity to participate in two poster presentation sessions. These sessions allowed us to interact with individuals from various backgrounds and share our research as well as learn about research in areas outside of our own. For topical sessions, I had the pleasure of sitting in talks regarding the one health approach and knowledge co-production. Through these presentations it was wonderful to see the variety of projects incorporating human, animal and environmental health and also the inclusion of Inuit community members within these projects.

On Wednesday night there was also a scheduled cultural night. There were tables set up where you could learn and participate in a variety of traditional activities such as beading, making a seal skin bracelet and playing traditional games. Luckily, we got a chance to participate in making a seal skin bracelet, which was a very neat experience!

Finally, on Thursday I did an oral presentation for the first time which was both exciting and extremely nerve-wracking. However, I had tremendous support through an extremely thoughtful Facebook post from Inez Shiwak, who unfortunately could not be there to co-present with me, and through the presence of many familiar faces in the room!

Throughout the week, I had the chance to both reconnect with collaborators and to meet various new individuals. Overall, ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting was just an incredible experience and it was an honour to be able to participate and share our work on behalf of myself and my co-authors.

EcoHealth Lab at ArcticNet ASM 2015!

ArcticNet hosted its 11th Annual Scientific Meeting (ASM) from 7 to 11 December in Vancouver, British Columbia. The ASM2015 welcomed 650 researchers, students, Northerners, policy makers and stakeholders to "address the numerous environmental, social, economical and political challenges and opportunities that are emerging from climate change and modernization in the Arctic."

The EcoHealth lab collaborated in 6 poster presentations, 7 oral presentations, and 1 topical session.


Saini et al Poster_ASM2015Saini MShiwak I, Roche S, Papadopoulos A, Wood M, Rigolet Inuit Community GovernmentNunatsiavut GovernmentIHACC Research Team and SL HarperDecember 2015. Participatory methods in Rigolet: Evaluation of Inuit health programs and collaborative development of a whiteboard video for health promotion. Poster Presentation. 11th ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting. Vancouver, Canada.


Manore et al Poster_ASM2015Manore A, Sargeant J, Weese JS, Cunsolo Willox A and Harper SL. December 2015. The burden of infectious pathogens in retail and country meats in Iqaluit, Nunavut. Poster Presentation. 11th ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting. Vancouver, Canada.



Wright et al Poster_ASM2015Wright C, Shiwak I, Sargeant J, Edge V, Ford J, Farahbakhsh K, Rigolet Inuit Community GovernmentNunatsiavut GovernmentIHACC Research Team and SL Harper. December 2015. Drinking water consumption patterns and changes over time in Rigolet, Nunatsiavut. Poster Presentation. 11th ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting, Vancouver, Canada.



Beauchamp et al Poster_ASM2015Beauchamp SL, Bishop-Williams KE, Hernandez CA,  IHACC Research Team and SL HarperDecember 2015. Trends and framing techniques used by Canadian newspapers about climate change impacts on health. Poster Presentation. 11th ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting, Vancouver, Canada.



Harper et al Poster_ASM2015Harper SL, Yansouni C, Goldfarb D, Cunsolo Willox A, Weese S, and J Sargeant. December 2015. Foodborne, waterborne, and zoonotic enteric disease: EcoHealth surveillance for environmental health. Poster Presentation. 11th ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting, Vancouver, Canada.



Cunsolo Willox et al Poster_ASM2015Cunsolo Willox A, Harper SL, Bunce A, Gillis DSawatzky A, Shiwak I, Shiwak J, Ford J, Furgal C, and VL Edge. Building Local & Indigenous Knowledge Systems (Building LINKS): Community-led environment & health surveillance for adaptation. Poster Presentation. 11th ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting, Vancouver, Canada.





Oral Presentations:

Saini MShiwak I, Roche S, Papadopoulos A, Wood M, Rigolet Inuit Community GovernmentNunatsiavut GovernmentIHACC Research Team and SL Harper. December 10, 2015. Participatory methods in Rigolet: Evaluation of Inuit health programs and collaborative development of a whiteboard video for health promotion. 11th ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting. Vancouver, Canada.

Wright CShiwak I, Sargeant J, Edge V, Ford J, Farahbakhsh K, Rigolet Inuit Community GovernmentNunatsiavut GovernmentIHACC Research Team and SL Harper. December 10, 2015. Drinking water consumption patterns and changes over time in Rigolet, Nunatsiavut. Oral Presentation. 11th ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting, Vancouver, Canada.

Harper SL, Yansouni C, Goldfarb D, Cunsolo Willox A, Weese S, and J Sargeant. December 11, 2015. Foodborne, waterborne, and zoonotic enteric disease: EcoHealth surveillance for environmental health. Oral Presentation. 11th ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting, Vancouver, Canada.

Desai S, Muchaal P, Pernica J, Smeija M, Harper SL, Miners A, Baikie M, and D. Goldfarb. December 22, 2015. Molecular microbiology of acute gastroenteritis in children under 5 years of age in Nunavut, Canada in 2014/15. Oral Presentation. 11th ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting, Vancouver, Canada.

Goldfarb DM, Miners A, Baikie M, Harper SL, and C. Yansouni. December 11, 2015. Building a research agenda for Arctic enteric infections research. Oral Presentation. 11th ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting, Vancouver, Canada.

Soucie TA, Arreak T, Harper SL, Jamieson R, Hansen LT, Jolicoeur L, Shirley J, L’Hérault V, and the Elders of Mittimatalik. December 8, 2015. Building capacity to monitor the risk of climate change on water quality on human health: A two year journey expanding community-based leadership in Pond Inlet. 11th ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting, Vancouver, Canada.

Yansouni CP, Harper SL, and D. Goldfarb. December 11, 2015. Understanding the epidemiology, microbiology, and growth trajectories of children with enteric infections in Nunavik and Nunavut: A prospective cohort study. 11th ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting, Vancouver, Canada.




Topical Sessions:

Harper SL, Goldfarb D, and C Yansouni. December 11, 2015. The Scoop on Northern Poop: Foodborne, Waterborne, and Zoonotic Infections in the Canadian North. 11th ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting. Vancouver, Canada.





Reflections from “Creating a New Legacy”

Written by Alexandra Sawatzky, PhD student This week I had the honour of attending the 2015 Aboriginal Mental Health and Wellness Conference, “Creating a New Legacy,” in Brandon, Manitoba. The overall purpose of this two-day gathering was to promote and create culturally-safe services with and for Indigenous peoples, while encouraging Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities to work together with their heads, hearts, and hands. The tree from their logo represents what happens when Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples come together as one to create a new legacy for the betterment of all. It implies that by establishing strong roots and a commitment to growing in our understanding, empathy, and respect for each other, the tree – and humanity – will flourish1. The core values of this conference were reflectiveness, responsiveness, relationships, and restoration, which resonated throughout the various presentations and sessions.

In the keynote address by Dr. Brenda Restoule, from Dokis First Nation and the Eagle Clan, emphasis was placed on the need to move towards proactive, strengths-based health programming models in Indigenous communities that focus on the gifts people already have – and help them use these gifts to move forward independently. Underlying these strengths-based models is the need for holistic approaches to healthcare that are developed, owned, and operated by Indigenous peoples. In order to do so, culture must be foundational.

In addition to strengths-based programming, Dr. Chandrakant Shah, Project Director of the Aboriginal Cultural Safety Initiative at Anishnawbe Health Toronto, stressed the importance of training healthcare providers in providing these programmes in culturally-safe way. Cultural safety is essentially the intentional act to recognize, respect, and nurture unique cultural identities. To be culturally safe, we must first prioritize empathy over compassion. Dr. Shah described compassion as infatuation, sympathy, or pity. Empathy, on the other hand, he described as the ability to walk in someone else’s shoes. Only after you’ve done this will you truly understand another person’s world and associated worldviews. Cultural safety also requires a deep understanding of the historical contexts, ongoing colonial processes, and racism that continue to impact Indigenous peoples today. Particularly for non-Indigenous individuals involved in various aspects of healthcare, this means engaging with decolonization processes in all work that is done alongside Indigenous partners.

Following Dr. Shah’s presentation, Dr. Michael Hart, who is from Fisher River Cree Nation and is the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Knowledge and Social Work, provided further elaboration on cultural safety and decolonization. Dr. Hart began his presentation by unpacking the themes and processes of colonialism, stressing that colonial processes are two-way streets; while one party suffers, the other benefits. Those who benefit often have an internalized sense of power, and most aren’t able to recognize this, or else are too uncomfortable to do so. Culturally-safe approaches to healthcare services seek to break down these power imbalances, and recognize that there is more than one way of looking at the world. Such approaches require new skill sets and a new theoretical base – a move from “Indigenous” to “Indigenist” services. Dr. Hart explained that Indigenist services are centred around cultural revitalization for the political, social, and economic transformation of Indigenous peoples. This involves the re-setting of traditions and continued re-affirmation of the power they hold, can hold, and will hold. He ended with words that are shared by many Elders, which get at the very heart of Indigenous ways of being: “take what will help you go forward in a good way. Please leave the rest.”

I also had the pleasure of meeting with artist Eugene Ross, a descendant of the Sante Dakota Tribe, who has the largest Dakota collection in Manitoba. Mr. Ross took the time to show me how Dakota people made pemmican – a mixture of dried meat, fruits, and nuts pounded into a coarse powder and mixed with melted fat. [see photo below]

Although I learned so much from my brief time here, I recognize learning is never-ending and I have a long road ahead of me. Learning, to me, is about becoming. Becoming a better, wiser, more empathetic person. Becoming who you need to be. Learning can – and should be – an uncomfortable, challenging process. I find that it is when I am most uncomfortable with what I’m learning that I truly become more knowledgeable – about the worlds around me, and about myself. This knowledge, put into practice, can grow into wisdom. As Barry French, one of the planning committee members, so eloquently stated in his closing address: “with this knowledge, with these teachings, comes an obligation to do something with them. Take what you’ve learned here, put it into your heart, and use it. Share it with others. Create a new legacy.”


  1. Creating a New Legacy. (2015). Conference Program. Retrieved October 8, 2015 from: http://creatinganewlegacy2015.ca/conference-program/

Update from Vivienne and Sarah in Uganda

Written by Vivienne Steele, MSc Candidate We have wrapped up our seven weeks in Bwindi, Uganda and are now settling back into life in Canada. The final weeks were a flurry of data entry and sharing results with local partners but we managed to finish everything we needed to do.

Our biggest challenge was completing the data entry from the maternity records, but with some help from the wonderful records department staff, we were able to finish entering the complete set of records. The hospital IT staff were pleased with this contribution and we hope it will be helpful to a number of hospital staff in their research.Viv Mat Ward

One evening as we were working late entering records, we got the call we had been awaiting—there was a birth happening on the ward and we were invited to come and assist with the procedure!  Cradling this brand new creature moments after it entered the world and tying off the umbilical cord put into perspective everything we have been working on. The experience made it starkly apparent why facility-based deliveries can be so important - the nurse was concerned about postpartum hemorrhaging. Fortunately the sutures held and the mother was able to sit up and meet her baby girl. As the nurse entered the birth information in the record, she asked for our names—we are now listed as having assisted during the birth on the very records we have spent weeks entering.

In our second last week in Buhoma our friend Levi from BDP guided us on the Batwa Experience tour. We headed up a steep mountain path and were welcomed by a traditional dance by several Batwa men and women, who then demonstrated honey-harvesting, hunting practices, and medicinal plant identification. Learning more about the traditional way of life for the Batwa in the forest contrasted greatly with what we saw on our community visits to their new settlements. The preservation of traditional knowledge through the Batwa Experience is an important initiative, but it also reminded us how many traditional food sources were lost when the Batwa were evicted from the forest.

On our final day, we held a preliminary results sharing meeting at the hospital, where 40 BCH staff were in attendance. It was a great chance for us to give a summary of IHACC, our projects, the work we had been able to accomplish while at BCH, as well as next steps. We also gave an overview of the health records evaluation draft. Our presentation was well received, and the staff were eager to review the soft copies of the evaluation that we distributed. Many people offered some great feedback and questions about the direction of our research.

We will miss BCH, Bwindi, and the many connections and friends we have made in Uganda. However, we are looking forward to continued collaboration with our Ugandan partners as we develop our projects over the coming months. We are very grateful to all who have helped us and feel fortunate to have had this experience. This time has reminded us both of the value of fieldwork; it has grounded our research in real-life experience and motivated us to make our research useful and relevant for BCH and the communities we have been working with.


International Ambassador for the One Health EcoHealth Congress 2016 in Melbourne, Australia

PhD Student Kate Bishop-Williams has been selected as an International Ambassador for the One Health EcoHealth Congress 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. Kate was selected for her commitment to EcoHealth, as demonstrated by her roles as the president of the EcoHealth Community of Interest in Guelph, the blog manager for the Canadian Community of Practice in Ecosystem Approaches to Health, and a voice for EcoHealth on her website and Twitter feeds.

Kate’s primary roles leading up to the conference are promotion of the conference; national relationship building with vendors, sponsors and attendees; and contributing to the development of an outstanding scientific program at the Congress.