CoPEH-Canada Course and Webinar Series

course banner bandrole cours 2018

2018 Hybrid, multi-site course on ecosystem approaches to health

May 2018

This part online, part face-to-face graduate level course on ecosystem approaches to health is being offered at three sites in May 2018: Montréal (UQAM), Southern Ontario (University of Guelph), and Prince George (University of Northern British Columbia). Eight sessions will be conducted as simultaneous webinars across the three sites and the rest of the time will be locally run sessions, including field trips. We offer a rigorous, hands-on pedagogical approach, illustrated through a case study.

This course is available to graduate students from all disciplines and also to professionals interested in these themes. It is possible to register for the full course for credit at one of the participating universities or to follow the webinars only, on-line (a certificate of completion is provided).

The webinars (8) will run from 1 to 2:30 (EST)/10 to 11:30 (PST) on Tuesdays and Thursdays from May 1st to May 24th (two sessions will end at 3:00 (EST)/12:00 (PST) (see schedule below)). The course will run on these same days and include the webinars, plus field visits, lectures and activities. The webinar topics are the following:

Date (duration) Topic
May 1 (90 minutes) Orientation to Hybrid Course/Webinar Series: Introduction & History of Principles of Ecohealth
May 3 (two hours for webinar participants) Resilience & Sustainability (Negotiating Health Activity)
May 8 (90 minutes) Transdisciplinarity & Knowledges
May 10 (90 minutes) Sex, Gender, & Equity
May 15 (90 minutes) Complexity & Systems Thinking
May 17 (90 minutes) Resource Extraction: environment, community, health connections
May 22 (90 minutes) Gender & Knowledge Translation
May 24 (two hours for everyone) Universities in their Watersheds, Social Networks Activity & Closing

For those interested in taking the 2018 course or following the webinar series and to register, please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 10 yr anniversary edition course

Blogs from previous courses

Three of the 2017 Hybrid course participants' Blogs

Girls Rock Camp North: An Ecosystems Approach to Summer Camp?

By Shayna Dolan

Recently, I’ve thought a lot about the role that art can play in issues such as climate change, sustainability, and social justice. I have explored the utility of using art to communicate large-scale environmental issues as a way to engage citizens to take action. In this blog post I want to tell you about an exciting opportunity happening in Prince George this summer and how it has led me to think about art as not only a method of communication, but also as a valuable process in itself that evokes many of the principles of an ecosystems approach to health.

GirlsRockCampNorthGirls Rock Camp North is a volunteer-run, week-long summer program for selfidentified girls and gender creative youth aged 9-17, operating out of Prince George, BC from August 21-25, 2017. Camp founders describe the camp as

“…a grass-roots organisation that cultivates self-empowerment and positive selfimage in self-identified girls and gender creative youth through music creation and performance, skills sharing and building, and peer collaboration.”

The week-long day camp includes workshops on song writing, zine and poster making, positive self-image, gear set-up, technical training and more. The cost of attending the camp is on a sliding scale basis depending on each camper’s financial situation. Organizers explain that this feature acknowledges differences in wealth, income, costs, and privilege and works to actively address the economic disparities in the Prince George community and society. The camp’s website states,

“We believe in the power of music to create personal and social change, and we aim to expand opportunities for girls, women and gender nonconforming individuals by equipping them with the technical, social, and self-advocacy skills to live by their own terms with integrity and respect for others. Simultaneously, we aim to increase the number of girls who wish to participate in various music scenes, and strive to end the gender imbalance and challenges that self-identified women and minorities experience in the industry.”

ShreddingGenderNormsIt’s apparent how the ecohealth principle of Gender and Social Equity is explicitly addressed by organizers of the Rock Camp through their acknowledgement of unequal and unfair opportunities for girls and women in the music industry. The above image make it pretty clear that the camp intends to “shred” gender norms and provide a safe and welcoming space for girls to explore themselves through music. In addition to Gender and Social Equity I would argue that the camp usesSystems Thinking in the development of the camp. The organizers envision the camp as

“a sustainable, annual project that will encourage community building, as well as provide mentorship and leadership opportunities in Prince George and surrounding area.”

The camp appears to not only exist as a method to teach girls music skills but also as an opportunity to connect people and strengthen community as those involved build capacity. Finally, this endeavor is a great illustration of Knowledge to Action. Camp founders come from a broad range of skills and disciplines and bring to the project a keen sense of both local and societal issues impacting the health of girls. This camp is an example of an initiative that is actively working towards improving the health and well-being of girls in the community of Prince George.

Prior to being introduced to the world of ecohealth and engaging with these course concepts I would have viewed this camp as a really cool summer activity that a small town kid such as myself would have LOVED to take part in. It’s been an interesting process to see how I now see concepts such as gender and social equity, systems thinking, and knowledge to action in places and processes I wouldn’t have a few years ago. I’m curious to know, have you been seeing events and opportunities differently lately?

Thanks for reading!


An ounce of protection is worth a pound of cure

By Charles Paco

The scope of my research is based on the unsafe drinking water within Canada’s Indigenous communities. I believe that the most effective blog posting I can write is one in which I am able to provide complex insight and thoughtful arguments given how well versed I am on the topic.

Blog PicWith respect to unsafe drinking water within Canada’s Indigenous communities, much attention has been given to water treatment in order to fix water quality after the drinking water has been deemed unsafe.  Lack of source water protection (SWP) within and upstream of Indigenous communities causes, at least in part, unsafe drinking water.  Source water protection is a part of the multi-barrier approach to clean drinking water that protects water sources like rivers, lakes, and wells from contaminants. The major issues noted with respect to source water protection include intuitional barriers, inadequate funding, lack of risk level characterization, and a lack of redundancy in the water supply.

The primary issue leading to inadequate SWP in Indigenous communities can be categorized as “institutional barriers”. In other words, the challenges radiating from the fragmentation of responsibility between the levels of government seems to be in effect with SWP. Along with competing resource interests with the Indigenous community members, another issue with governmental agencies seems to be a sense of complacency after water treatment facilities have been installed: the focus shifts towards fixing an issue rather than preventing it. There seems to be a notion to ignore SWP once treatment facilities have been implemented. With this band-aid approach and lax prevention there is a risk that contaminants introduced to the source water could exceed the operating specifications of the water treatment system.  The concept that treatment trumps prevention acts as a major challenge to safe drinking water in Indigenous communities.

The lack of funding from all governmental levels adds to the challenge in protection of safe drinking water. Indigenous communities are notoriously underfunded with respect to many aspects of their community’s resource management, including safe drinking water.  These financial constraints put on the communities cause the need for a triage approach in the quest for safe drinking water: underfunding requires priority to be given to immediate needs in the drinking water system before the needs of protection are addressed.  Immediate needs such as fixing the broken treatment technology and responding to a contamination take priority over proactive approaches such as SWP.  Further, due to the financial limitations in the communities, there is very rarely adequate capital for SWP once the price of damage control has been paid. This irony of funding going to damage control, although allocating money to prevention could prevent that very damage, acts as another major barrier to source water protection.

An additional barrier to SWP is a lack of ability to comprehensively assess the risk level when a contamination of source water occurs.  Many First Nation communities do not have source water technology that allowed for the characterization of pathogens, making it difficult to assess the risk level during an outbreak. There have been many reported inadequacies within bacteriological monitoring in Indigenous communities’ water systems.  In an article studying 56 of Alberta’s First Nations’ water systems, it was reported that when a risk was posed to drinking water safety, 98% of the source water systems had not been characterized for specific types of bacterial contamination such as Cryptosporidium spp. or Giardia spp (Smith et al.).  Without identifying the bacterial contaminant, it is very challenging to accurately determine the risk level posed to the community without resorting to assumptions.  If there is an inaccurate drinking water risk determination, it is impossible to know the extent of intervention needed, generating an obvious barrier to SDW.

There is not only a lack of detailed source water monitoring in Indigenous communities but also infrequent monitoring.  Health Canada requires that water quality to be sampled for bacteria a minimum of four times per month in a community with 5,000 people or less. However, one bacteriological sample per week to classify an entire source water system would hardly be acceptable in providing a reliable indication of water quality. This Health Canada requirement seems even more illogical for communities that have had previous challenges to drinking water safety due to outbreaks and contamination. The consequences of infrequent sampling are two-fold.  Not only is the community at risk for a disease outbreak in their drinking water, but it also causes a prolonged time period before water supply contamination can be detected.

Source water protection is probably the most challenging aspect when trying to achieve safe drinking water within our Indigenous communities, however it is far from unachievable. The difficulty stems from the fact that the water sources are ecosystems themselves, constantly interacting with thousands of species and being used by humans for other reasons in addition to being a source of drinking water. If we are able to tackle this issue and better protect the source water, it will simplify all other pieces needed to provide safe drinking water. 


  1. Dyck, T., Plummer, R., & Armitage, D. (2015). Examining First Nations ’ approach to protecting water resources using a multi-barrier approach to safe drinking water in Southern Ontario , Canada. Canadian Water Resources Journal / Revue Canadienne Des Ressources Hydriques40(2), 203–222.
  1. Morrison, A., Bradford, L., & Bharadwaj, L. (2015). Quantifiable progress of the First Nations Water Management Strategy, 2001 – 2013: Ready for regulation? Canadian Water Resources Journal / Revue Canadienne Des Ressources Hydriques40(4), 352–372.
  1. Smith, D. W., Guest, R. K., Svrcek, C. P., & Farahbakhsh, K. (2007) health evaluation of drinking water systems for First Nations reserves in Alberta ,17(2006).


Canada 150: A Bitter Slice of Watermelon to Swallow

By Marlee Vinegar

There's just one month until Canada celebrates its 150th. For me that conjures up images of lake-side cottages, barbecues, fireworks, and watermelon. For many across the country, the sesquicentennial is not quite as sweet. For some, it represents another erasure of First Nations' histories. For others, Canada 150 marks 150 years of colonization, complete with stolen land, broken treaties, residential schools, destruction of culture, tearing apart of families, and other atrocities. The city of Vancouver will be celebrating Canada 150+ with the aims to:

Vancouver island-  Acknowledge the Indigenous peoples who have been here since time immemorial

- Represent that there is history in this land that predates colonization

- Represent that Vancouver’s Canada 150+ experience is also about looking to the future, and all communities, Nations and peoples walking together as a stronger society than ever before

- Set the mark for what we hope to achieve in all cities and communities across Canada

- Present Vancouver with the opportunity to be its best, as a City of Reconciliation that reflects and recognizes Indigenous peoples and cultures (1).

The year-long series of events “signifies only the first step in Canada’s generations-long journey towards truth and reconciliation,” (1).

When it comes to reconciliation, I’ll own up to being too ignorant and ambivalent for too long. It's taken me a long time to come to grips with reconciliation as something that I needed to be involved with. I’m working on dissecting which aspects of my own (settler) identity and history enable parts of my brain to think 'this isn't my history, these weren't my transgressions,' and 'this isn't my problem' and 'I have no role in the solution.' 

There are also other parts of my brain that pipe-up with 'your history has allowed you to benefit while others continue to deal with inter-generational trauma and real human rights violations!' and 'you're part of the problem that continues to exist today!!' and ' what are you doing to become part of the solution?!!??!!' 

I proudly identify as a Canadian—because let’s face it, I don’t identify with the Eastern European countries that my great-grandparents called home—and with that I inherit all of Canada's history and become responsible for its future. Coming together to make a better future for everyone is part of what reconciliation is about, right (not necessarily a hypothetical question, I’m on a learning curve!)? As a public health professional driven by a strong belief in the need for health equity, I need to identify how I can support and promote health equity for Aboriginal peoples, including how I can better integrate an intersectional lens into whatever work I do. Knowing that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, I sincerely hope that if I falter there will be people to help me course correct.

So, what does Canada 150 and reconciliation mean to you? Between the bites of burgers and slices of watermelon you enjoy while camping for free in Canada’s national parks, I implore you to find out.


1.        City of Vancouver, Government of Canada. About | Canada 150+ [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2017 Jun 1]. Available from:

Marlee Vinegar is a moose, maple syrup, and timmies lover, a wearer of many metaphorical hats—though very few actual hats— and probably eats more watermelon than you.

Follow @m_ch3cooh

2015 Intensive field school PARTICIPANTS' BLOGS

Three of the blogs written in the context of the 8th CoPEH-Canada field school (2015; Montréal) were published on the "Semaine du Saint-Laurent" website (French only), in conjunction with the the David Suzuki Foundation, in the lead up to their 4th edition of the Saint Lawrence River appreciation week. 

Écrit par Lauren Yee, Bénédicte Calvet, Marina Favrim Gasparin, Charles Cardinal et Jolène Santerre