Trent University News article to be viewed here

Dr. Chris Furgal, an associate professor in the Indigenous Environmental Studies program at Trent, will share his research about how indigenous communities will adapt to climate change as one of several “fascinating ideas” presented at the “What Matters Now” event on Wednesday, May 21 at Kingston’s City Hall.

Professor Furgal joins four other top Ontario university researchers for the final stop of this year’s Research Matters free speakers’ series, run by the Council of Ontario Universities (COU). The series aims to showcase how university researchers are improving the health, happiness and richness of life around the world as well as helping government, businesses and communities make informed decisions.

“Research Matters highlights the tremendous breadth and value of university research being conducted right here in Ontario,” says Bonnie M. Patterson, President and CEO of the COU. “It’s no exaggeration to say that university research changes lives, and we want the public to take as much pride in that accomplishment as our universities do.”

Prof. Furgal recently received national attention for a report he co-authored about the food security plight of northern Canadians. The report, entitled Aboriginal Food Security in Northern Canada: An Assessment of the State of Knowledge, was released March 27 by the Canadian Council of Academics and quickly received national coverage from CBC News, Sun News, and other media outlets.

The study paints a picture of how challenging it is for Aboriginal people living in northern and remote communities to access safe, nutritious food on a regular basis. It describes food security in the north as a serious and complex issue with significant implications for health and wellness, especially for the Inuit. “Quite simply put, things need to be done now and on a large scale to address this critical issue in Aboriginal health in Canada,” Prof. Furgal said.

Hosted by public broadcaster Piya Chattopadhyay, the “What Matters Now” event will take place from 6:30 to 9 p.m. and can be watched on a live stream online.


James D. Ford, PhD, Ashlee Cunsolo Willox, PhD, Susan Chatwood, MSc, Christopher Furgal, PhD, Sherilee Harper, PhD, Ian Mauro, PhD, and Tristan Pearce, PhD. 2014. Download Open Access PDF here, or through the AJPH website.


Climate change will have far-reaching implications for Inuit health. Focusing on adaptation offers a proactive approach for managing climate-related health risks—one that views Inuit populations as active agents in planning and responding at household, community, and regional levels.

Adaptation can direct attention to the root causes of climate vulnerability and emphasize the importance of traditional knowledge regarding environmental change and adaptive strategies. An evidence base on adaptation options and processes for Inuit regions is currently lacking, however, thus constraining climate policy development.

In this article, we tackled this deficit, drawing upon our understanding of the determinants of health vulnerability to climate change in Canada to propose key considerations for adaptation decision-making in an Inuit context. (Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print April 22, 2014: e1–e9. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2013.301724)

Trent Professor Co-authors Important Report on Northern Aboriginal Food Security:
Report draws national attention to Inuit food shortages

Click here to view article in Trent University News.

A recent report co-authored by Trent’s Dr. Chris Furgal is drawing national attention to the food security plight of northern Canadians. The report, entitled Aboriginal Food Security in Northern Canada: An Assessment of the State of Knowledge was released March 27 by the Canadian Council of Academics and quickly received national coverage from CBC News, Sun News, and other media outlets.

Professor Furgal, an associate professor in the Indigenous Environmental Studies Program, was part of a multi-disciplinary panel of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal expert scholars who authored the report. The expert panel was assembled by the Council to conduct an independent, evidence-based assessment of northern food security and its implications for Aboriginal health.

“The assessment was requested by the Minister of Health, on behalf of Health Canada,” Prof. Furgal said. “This was based on their view of the importance of northern food security as a critical issue of public policy in Canada today.”

The study paints a picture of how challenging it is for Aboriginal people living in northern and remote communities to access safe, nutritious food on a regular basis. It describes food security in the north as a serious and complex issue with significant implications for health and wellness, especially for the Inuit.

As an expert panellist, Prof. Furgal was involved in all areas of the study. “Existing scientific data, peer-reviewed literature, and credible grey literature was considered,” he explained. “We ensured that evidence was informed by traditional knowledge and community-based research and we worked with national Aboriginal organizations to seek additional data and ensure that the conclusions rested on a diversity of sources.”

As a researcher working in the field, Prof. Furgal was aware that food security was an issue for northern residents; however, he was still alarmed by the revelations of the assessment. “The report findings were surprising in regards to the very extreme and clear picture they present of the severity of the issue in Canada’s North. Collectively, we (the panellists) started to use the word “crisis” in reference to the state of the issue in our work,” he said.

Prof. Furgal is hopeful that the report will increase awareness of the issue and lead to key actions, at all levels of government, to address food insecurity. He also hopes there will be support for research to fill some of the important gaps identified in the development of the report.

“Quite simply put, things need to be done now and on a large scale to address this critical issue in Aboriginal health in Canada,” Prof. Furgal said.

In the meantime, Prof. Furgal is continuing ongoing research relevant to this topic. He and his students are involved in research projects in northern Quebec (Nunavik), Nunavut, and in the Inuit land claim area of northern Labrador (Nunatsiavut) looking at aspects of Arctic food security.

For more information visit: or

Posted on Thursday, April 3, 2014.

Report co-authored by Research Group Director Dr. Chris Furgal

Food Insecurity presents a serious and growing challenge
in Canada’s northern and remote Aboriginal communities, finds Expert Panel

Council of Canadian Academics / Ottawa (March 27, 2014) – A new expert panel report on food security in Northern Canada, has found that food insecurity among northern Aboriginal peoples requires urgent attention in order to mitigate impacts on health and well-being. Aboriginal Food Security in Northern Canada: An Assessment of the State of Knowledge, released today by the Council of Canadian Academies, addresses the diversity of experience that northern First Nations, Inuit, and Métis households and communities have with food insecurity.

Aboriginal households across Canada experience food insecurity at a rate more than double that of non- Aboriginal households (27% vs. 12%, respectively). Recent data indicate that Canadian households with children have a higher prevalence of food insecurity than households without children. A 2007-2008 survey indicated that nearly 70% of Inuit preschoolers aged three to five lived in food insecure households, and 56% lived in households with child-specific food insecurity. Preliminary evidence also indicates that more women than men are affected. The Panel concluded that lasting solutions require collaboration and the continued involvement of those most affected by food insecurity: people living in the North.

“To fully understand the issue of food security, consideration must be given to the many factors that influence life in the North, such as environmental change, culture, governance, and economies,” said Dr. Harriet Kuhnlein, Chair of the Expert Panel. There are no silver-bullet solutions — that is why cooperation among all the key actors including local communities, governments, businesses and institutions is essential.

The evidence-based report provides data on the various rates of food insecurity, explores how different factors affect food security, and describes the health and social effects of rapid social, environmental, and economic transitions — including the nutrition transition. Other findings include:

  • There is no single way to “solve” food security issues in the North. A range of holistic approaches, including poverty reduction strategies, is required.
  • There exists a strong body of research and traditional knowledge with respect to food security and northern Aboriginal health, but several knowledge gaps persist.
  • The food security measurement methods used to date have been valuable, but their ability to respond to the complex issue of food security in the northern Canadian Aboriginal context is limited.
  • Geographic, cultural, environmental, and economic diversity necessitates programs and policies that are responsive to locally-identified needs and are enabled by traditional knowledge and community strengths. Northern communities are a key source of resilience and innovative ideas.

“At the forefront of the panel’s discussions were the people who are most affected by food insecurity. This expert panel was committed to conducting an assessment that fully considered the complex range ofissues that are a daily reality for northern communities and have significant implications for food security,” said Elizabeth Dowdeswell, President of the Council of Canadian Academies.” The panel’s report provides clear evidence and insights that can assist in building effective solutions for both the short and long-term.”

Click HERE for more information.

Click HERE for a direct link to the report.


Link to blog entry:

During March, Arctic Energy Alliance (AEA) was pleased to host Lawrence Keyte, who is in the second year of a Master’s in Sustainability Studies at Trent University, researching energy resilience in northern communities. Specifically, he is looking at success factors which help isolated northern communities reduce their fossil fuel dependence and move into alternative energy initiatives. Below is his summary of the project he was working on while at our office.

LK_photo_YKUpon researching northern community energy projects, it became quickly apparent that a lot was happening in NWT regarding energy policy, research and support for these projects. Several NWT energy professionals suggested I take a look at the Fort McPherson biomass boiler initiative as a case study. They saw this project as a positive example of a small northern community who conceived and followed through with thenecessary steps to put a pilot biomass boiler in place. The 90 kW boiler, which can burn cord wood, wood pellets or locally harvested wood chips, provides district heat to the Tetlit Gwich’in Council band office and the community health center. After my two weeks in Fort McPherson looking at the project and interviewing community members, I came away immensely impressed by the tenacity and determination of those involved, both in the community and in Yellowknife, who brought this vision to reality. This biomass project is already a success, displacing a significant amount of oil and employing people in Fort McPherson involved in the harvesting, processing and transportation of the cord wood and wood chips to feed the boiler. It will continue to be a landmark initiative in my opinion, due to the combined efforts of the community, AEA, and Environment and Natural Resources (ENR).

In an effort to understand all aspects behind the success of these community energy initiatives, I felt it was important to come to Yellowknife to research other levels of support, and to understand the different perspectives of government, not-for-profit support organizations and industry. All roads in Yellowknife seem to intersect at AEA, and I was delighted to be put in touch there with energy management specialist Leanne Robinson, who kindly agreed to not only to help me connect with potential interviewees, but with her partner Dwayne to host me in their home. Leanne also arranged for me to have office space at AEA, which was pivotal to my learning during the two weeks I was there.

While in Yellowknife I formally interviewed nine people, and had informal discussions, coffees and tours with many more. I came away with valuable perspectives from many energy professionals at AEA, from GNWT (ENR, Industry, Tourism and Investment, and Public Works and Services), from industry and from energy consultants. Apart from exceeding all my expectations for learning and understanding the myriad of factors that create success for these community energy initiatives, I came away with an enduring respect and fondness for the people who hosted me at AEA, and the warmth with which I was welcomed in Fort McPherson and Yellowknife.

A return data verification trip is planned for late May or early June. I am looking forward to seeing everyone again then, and continuing the good conversations we began in March!

The picture above shows Lawrence enjoying the northern outdoors.

Click here to view Lawrence’s website profile.



The Health, Environment, and Indigenous Communities Research Group reaches out to the Trent University community to shed light on how knowledge gained through their research is leading to action.

The display “Knowledge Mobilization: From Knowledge to Action” elaborates on what Knowledge Mobilization is and provides examples from some of the research group members that highlight elements of the Knowledge Mobilization process. Inspiration for this display was the article ”The Evolution of a Research Collective” published recently about the research group on the front page of Trent’s Showcase Magazine’s Special Edition on Knowledge Mobilization.

What is Knowledge Mobilization?

Knowledge Mobilization (KM) is the process of moving knowledge generated through research into action of a variety of forms (decisions, programs, policies, etc).

At the heart of KM lies a partnership between the research community and community of knowledge users, working together to co-create knowledge and understanding through systematic inquiry. Such partnership requires collaborative, dynamic, iterative processes to ensure that the focus and conduct of research remains relevant and appropriate for all those involved.

The process of KM includes the communication, uptake, and implementation of research results that ultimately and ideally have positive impact. Implementation and impact are monitored and evaluated to direct adaptation of the future collaborative research efforts.

Knowledge creation within the KM process not only refers to gaining a better understand of an issue, but also about enhancing our understanding of the process through which research is conducted, communicated, disseminated, implemented and evaluated.

Explicit awareness of and attention to the knowledge mobilization process, taking place between communities of researchers and knowledge users, can lead to more effective and positive outcomes for all those involved.

Diagram: Knowledge Mobilization Process (click on image to enlarge)

Trent Continues Legacy of Award-Winning Arctic Student Research
Four grad students win awards at Canada’s largest annual Arctic research gathering

Solidifying the University’s’ reputation as a leader in arctic research, four Trent graduate students walked away from Canada’s largest annual arctic research conference with awards in the poster competition.

The students were part of a 20-person delegation of Trent graduate students, researchers and faculty members who attended the ArcticNet Scientific Meeting (ASM) in Halifax in December.

Boasting a consistently strong presence at the ASM each year, Trent University continued its legacy of award-winning graduate student research in 2013. This year, four awards of the ArcticNet ASM graduate student poster award competition went to members of the Health, Environment and Indigenous Communities (HEIC) Research Group directed by Trent professor Dr. Chris Furgal.

Amongst the award-winners was M.A. candidate in Sustainability Studies, Kristeen McTavish, who received the Inuit Partnership of Excellence Award, the most prestigious award to be given to a graduate student at the ASM and presented to the poster that best addresses Inuit priorities, involves Inuit partners and builds capacity.

Speaking of the honour, Ms. McTavish said:  “I feel extremely honoured to have been selected for the Inuit Partnership Award. This work would certainly not be possible without the enthusiasm and drive of all of our community and organizational partners. I hope that this award helps to showcase the importance of engaging in this type of research, which produces relevant, useful, and implementable research results and benefits to communities.”

The poster award competition is held annually at the ASM to acknowledge excellence in research and presentation, encouraging students to continue in their meaningful contributions to research that ensures the stewardship of the changing Canadian Arctic. Additional Trent winners included: Kaitlin Breton-Honeyman, PhD candidate in Environment and Life Sciences, second place in the Marine-Natural Science category; Emily Willson, M.A. candidate in Sustainability Studies, first place in the Social Science and Human Health category; and Nicole Bilodeau, M.A. candidate in Sustainability Studies, third place in the Social Science and Human Health category. To view pictures of the winners, visit

Janet Kivett Knight, a Trent M.A. candidate in Sustainability Studies, found attending the ASM an invaluable experience, and commented on the importance of allowing researchers in all stages of their careers to connect to others in the field while often making linkages across disciplines.

“It’s a unique opportunity to connect around a common focus on Northern issues, but with the involvement of multiple perspectives, which build out a more holistic picture of what is happening in the Arctic,” Ms. Kivett Knight said.

Click here to view article on the Trent News website.

Four awards of the 2013 ArcticNet ASM graduate student poster award competition went to members of the Health, Environment and Indigenous Communities research group, therewith continuing the legacy of award-winning graduate student research being conducted under the supervision of Chris Furgal.

The poster award competition is held annually to acknowledge excellence in research and presentation, therewith encouraging students to continue in their meaningful contributions to research that ensures the stewardship of the changing Canadian Arctic.

Poster award winner: Kristeen McTavish, M.A. candidate (middle) – Inuit Partnership of Excellence Award, presented to the poster that best addresses Inuit priorities, involves Inuit partners and builds capacity

Poster award winner: Emily Willson, M.A. candidate (right) – First place in the Social Science and Human Health category

Poster award winner: Kaitlin Breton-Honeyman, PhD candidate (right) – Second place in the Marine-Natural Science category

Poster award winner: Nicole Bilodeau, M.A. candidate (left) – Third place in the Social Science and Human Health category

Official video footage of the ASM can be viewed here.


Dr. Chris Furgal talks about his Health Environment and Indigenous Communities (HEIC) Research Group and Knowledge Mobilization.

The following article was featured as the cover story of the Fall 2013 issue of Showcase: The Knowledge Mobilization Edition. View the complete publication at here.



Unique Trent Research Group Conducts Knowledge Mobilization in its Truest Form

The Evolution of the Health Environment and Indigenous Communities (HEIC) Research Collective

When Dr. Chris Furgal decided to unite his group of diverse graduate students and research assistants under one umbrella several years ago, he had no idea that the group would evolve into the dynamic formal research collective it has become today.

“These students, like me, are doing research which lies at the intersection of different disciplines and topics, so they don’t easily fit in one discipline,” says Professor Furgal, a professor in Trent’s Indigenous Environmental Studies program, who is cross-appointed between the Environmental Resource Science/Studies and Indigenous Studies Departments. “When I first formed the group, the intention was to provide a common collective and a supportive environment for graduate students and young researchers. It evolved when my students wanted to contribute and take on more, even above and beyond simply sharing their experiences and getting support for their own thesis projects.”

The graduate students, research assistants and postdoctoral fellows who make up the group are all studying or working under the supervision of Prof. Furgal and represent a variety of graduate programs, from the Indigenous Studies Ph.D. and the Environmental & Life Sciences M.Sc. and Ph.D., to the Sustainability Studies M.A. and the Canadian Studies & Indigenous Studies M.A programs. With 24 current members, the recently formalized Health Environment and Indigenous Communities (HEIC) research group is the second largest group of its kind at Trent.

Common Themes Unite Researchers

Inspired by the discovery of (sometimes surprising) commonalities between their research projects, students and researchers in the HEIC group gain motivation from the collective and interactive atmosphere the group provides.

“The group has facilitated and, to a degree, promoted common themes around research that no single student or researcher in the group could have taken on entirely by themselves,” says Prof. Furgal.

This pooling of collective experience, together with facilitating an exchange of communication of what they are learning, means students in the HEIC collective are working together to achieve knowledge mobilization in the truest sense of the word.

Group Interactions Spark Knowledge Mobilization

Prof. Furgal explains that, while some students’ projects directly explore issues of knowledge mobilization (for example, evaluating the communication of territorial health survey results to northern communities), knowledge mobilization is also a direct product of the interactions sparked within the HEIC group itself. A prime example of this is a new collective research paper, authored by members of the HEIC group around the importance of relationship in conducting research with and in Aboriginal communities, and how to communicate about this issue to different audiences and in different forms.

“Our relationships with the communities we work with is something we spend a lot of time discussing and learning about in the group and in our individual projects,” says Prof. Furgal. “It ties in directly with issues of research ethics and social responsibility. Good, ethical, responsible relationships are a goal and hopefully a result in our work with communities; they are not just a means through which we gather our data – and this is something we recognize and respect. We have learned a lot about the importance of relationship in the research we do and the group wanted to explore ways of sharing our collective learning on this topic with a broader audience.”

Taking Research Public

Highlighted in the paper, which has been submitted to the journal The Canadian Geographer for publication, are direct learnings from the research projects and experiences of several HEIC members. These projects include: a study on the ecology of a hunted population of beluga whales in the Arctic using both science and Indigenous Knowledge; an examination of goose ecology in a Northern Ontario First Nation where the management of the species could have potential impacts on the needs of residents who depend on the resource for food and culture; a study about the role of Indigenous Knowledge in developing environmental policy in Northern Labrador; and an examination of the implications of climate change on accidents and injuries while traveling on the sea ice for residents of an Arctic Inuit community.

Speaking of the common issues discussed in the paper, Prof. Furgal says: “It’s not just about the importance of relationship in getting the research done respectfully, but about how to communicate that importance to other researchers. My students recognized this critical element in their work and came together to share their experiences on this topic and learn from one another. This resulted in their creation of a collective research paper on this topic that draws on a diversity of related experiences they have had as young researchers. This opportunity came about as result of being part of this research collective. Together they have reflected on commonalities in their research to identify issues, generate possible solutions, and share their findings.”

Learn more about the HEIC group:
Watch the video at