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Les étudiantes et étudiants de la formation hybride de 2018 ont rédigé des blogues (anglais seulement), parmi lesquels trois ont été sélectionnés pour paraitre ici.

Demand for beer cans tied to ancestral bones washing ashore in BC

By Jenn Diederich 

Green as a colour-blind approach to ‘activism’

By Bianca Dreyer

Leaded blood: is the Cerro de Pasco community left out?

By Stefany Ildefonso


Demand for beer cans tied to ancestral bones washing ashore in BC

By Jenn Diederich 

Aluminum: the miracle metal. Lightweight, durable, recyclable. It makes the beer cans we love to drink from and the airplanes we love to fly in. But what if there’s a darker side to aluminum production?

kenney dam imageAfter World War II there was a high demand for aluminum products in Canada, and in an unprecedented manoeuvre the BC Government decided to give the water rights of the Nechako River to a private corporation: Rio Tinto Alcan (formerly Alcan). The Kenney Dam was then constructed in 1952, creating the Nechako Reservoir, and powering Rio Tinto Alcan’s aluminum smelters (Royal BC Museum, 2013).

cheslatta gravesThere are always unintended consequences of humans trying to dominate the natural environment through resource extraction, though. First, let us address the ongoing legacy of colonialism and economic imperialism in Canada: 120,000 acres of the Cheslatta Carrier Nation’s territory were flooded immediately after the Dam’s construction, and they have had to endure almost yearly flooding since then. Loss of villages, vegetation, and spiritual sites (Dacre, 2016) are just a few of the ongoing traumas the Cheslatta have had to bear. Their ancestors’ bones have literally washed ashore due to flooding of their burial grounds (CBC Daybreak, 2015). Next, let us address the ecological impacts of this project. The Dam has had an immensely negative impact on the Nechako watershed: lower water flows mean warmer water temperatures, and this can be lethal to fish (Nienow, 2016). The Nechako is home to a population of white sturgeon who are now endangered due to industrial use and habitat degradation (McAdam et al., 2018) and efforts to increase the population are underway (Picketts et al., 2017). Loss of biodiversity, regular flooding, and a complete disregard for the Cheslatta’s land and ancestors – how much more damage does aluminum production need to cause before we take action?

inside alcans power chamberInside Alcan's power chamber, Royal BC MuseumSome questions worth asking ourselves include: why does a private corporation own the water of the Nechako River, and what can be done about the ongoing negative impacts this Dam has on the Cheslatta’s territory and the surrounding Nechako watershed? According to senior policy advisor Mike Robertson for the Cheslatta Carrier Nation, a cold-water release facility could help to rectify the ecological harms caused by the Kenney Dam (Nienow, 2016). Over the decades plans have been drawn up to build such a facility several times, yet it has never come to fruition. It is time to investigate why this is the case. Presently, a framework for negation continues between Rio Tinto Alcan, the BC government, and the Cheslatta people (Dacre, 2016) and only time will tell whether the BC government – or Rio Tinto Alcan – has to pay for the havoc this Dam continues to cause.


Dacre, C. (2016, September 12). Province working towards settlement with cheslatta over kenney dam. My Prince George Now. Retrieved from

Human remains wash ashore in nechako river flooding, rio tinto alcan blamed. (2015, June 3). CBC Daybreak North. Retrieved from

McAdam, S. O., Crossman, J. A., Williamson, C., St‐Onge, I., Dion, R., Manny, B. A., & Gessner, J. (2018). If you build it, will they come? spawning habitat remediation for sturgeon. Journal of Applied Ichthyology, 34(2), 258-278. doi:10.1111/jai.13566

Nienow, F. (2016, June 15). Impacts of the kenney dam. Burns Lake Lakes District News. Retrieved from

Picketts, I. M., Parkes, M. W., & Déry, S. J. (2017). Climate change and resource development impacts in watersheds: Insights from the nechako river basin, canada. The Canadian Geographer / Le Géographe Canadien, 61(2), 196-211. doi:10.1111/cag.12327

Royal BC Museum. (2013, November 30). This week in history: Season 2 episode 2 kenney dam [Video file]. Retrieved from


Green as a colour-blind approach to ‘activism’

By Bianca Dreyer

I have never found the term ‘environmentalist’ to fully capture how I see myself or the work that I do -- What makes me an ‘environmentalist’ rather than a ‘humanist’ or something else all together? As I progressed in my doctoral studies, the discomfort with the term, as well as the larger movement, became more pronounced. This coincided with what I was learning about Canada’s colonial history as well as my place within it as a first-generation immigrant.

My reflections on this topic are motivated by my experiences teaching a university seminar on Psychology, Environment and Justice. I started reviewing programs and curricula that critically examine connections between social and ecological justice. However, I found that many initiatives focused on environmental education aimed to connect students with the “natural world,” while ignoring Canada’s colonial context. My views have resonated with that of critical geographer Baldwin (2009) who has argued that, “the concept of wilderness enjoys the dubious distinction of being one of colonialism’s most enduring symbols in Canada, an empty space, devoid of humans […] which is quite literally founded on the erasure of aboriginality” (p. 432). I am concerned that experiential land-based learning programs might inadvertently reproduce and extend structures of whiteness (McLean, 2013).

Scholars such as Kahn (2008) and Gonzalez-Guardiano (2005) assert that environmental education programs lack connection to social and political issues. And yet, the destructive elements of contemporary globalization— insatiable greed for resources, genocidal disregard for life, militarism, and racism – have linked these issues in North America since its invasion by European settlers (Churchill, 2003).

The construction of whiteness as a form of individual accumulation of resources relies on the consumption of land and resources, which makes the colonial relationship between white-settler society and Indigenous Peoples foundational to land-based struggles (McLean, 2013). In this sense, Canadian whiteness is not an export from Europe; rather it was forged through the colonial encounter (Milligan and McCreary 2011). 

Environmental education that solely focuses on the effects of environmental destruction therefore necessarily depoliticizes and silences primary causes such as colonialism, capitalism, and white supremacy. Students are invited to combat environmental problems in socially acceptable, “comfortable” ways through activities such as recycling, biking, or buying from organic Farmer’s Markets. However, these solutions steeped in white, middle-class subjectivity do not challenge racialized systems of inequality (McLean, 2013). 

This approach to fostering individual behaviour change is especially prominent in my disciple – psychology. Psychologists tend to target individual problems one at a time without much consideration of the possible root causes, which is rather ineffective. Yet, this is a common approach to promoting sustainability. For example, psychologists might look at one behavior (e.g., turning off lights), examine how one might go about changing that behavior (e.g., prompts, cues, etc.), then implement the strategy and repeat for each behavior and each individual. This is approach is inadequate for addressing my broader, structural concerns.

Considerations of who benefits from environmental destruction are absent, as are critical discussions about ongoing colonial narratives; the narrative of the “good” white person’s ability to save both the environment and people of colour most affected by unjust distribution of environmental destruction is predominant.

aamjiwnaang.oct2017One of the most powerful experiences for students in my class is the guest lecture by a member of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation near Sarnia, Ontario. The reserve, only a 2-hour-drive from the university, is surrounded by petrochemical companies. The proximity of these polluting corporations has given Aamjiwnaang the nickname of “Chemical Valley.” Despite their short distance, students are often unaware of the situation of people living on this reserve; this has brought issues of environmental racism and injustice, thought to be problems primarily of countries in the developing world, to Canada. In this class, we collectively explore the role of political activism in sustainability work, especially the complacency of the Canadian law in upholding colonial injustices and continued destruction of land and Indigenous communities.

waterwalk.oct2017During one of these classes, the guest speaker suggested various forms of activism - some focused on working from within the system, some rejecting current laws altogether. As an instructor, I felt the need to assure my students that they should engage in activism that “they feel comfortable with.” Her response still leaves me a chilling residue around my heart. She said: “Why is it that you allow yourself the privilege of comfort? It is not comfortable for us that we can’t open our windows at night without fear of suffocation, that our children need to get rushed to the hospital because of unexpected contaminants in the playground or that we can’t fish in our rivers anymore.” Is there a place of comfort in activism? - This is a question I have never stopped thinking about. Ringing in my ears the sentiment of Audre Lorde, that the Master’s tools will never dismantle the Master’s house.

I start my class with this quote by Lynton K. Caldwell:

“The environmental crisis is an outward manifestation of a crisis of mind and spirit. There could be no greater misconception of its meaning than to believe it is concerned only with endangered wildlife, human-made ugliness, and pollution. These are parts of it, but more importantly, the crisis is concerned with the kind of creatures we are and what we must become in order to survive.”

In taking my place as an educator on this land that does not belong to me, I continue to thrive towards a critical inclusion of race and anti-colonial theories into the curriculum so my students will be part of a generation of environmental activists that actively disrupt, challenge and transform environmentalisms colonial and racist narrative. I continue to fail, but next time I fail, I will fail better and I will never cease to try again.


Baldwin, A. (2009). Ethnoscaping Canada's boreal forest: liberal whiteness and its disaffiliation from colonial space. The Canadian Geographer/Le Géographe canadien, 53(4), 427-443.

Churchill, W. (2003). Acts of rebellion: The Ward Churchill reader. New York: Routledge.

González-Gaudiano, E. (2005). Education for Sustainable Development: Configuration and meaning. Policy futures in education, 3(3), 243-250.

Kahn, R. (2008). Towards ecopedagogy: Weaving a broad-based pedagogy of liberation for animals, nature, and the oppressed people of the earth. In The critical pedagogy reader, ed. A. Darder, M. Baltodano, and R. Torres. New York: Routledge, 523–538.

McLean, S. (2013). The whiteness of green: Racialization and environmental education. The Canadian Geographer/Le Géographe canadien, 57(3), 354-362.

Milligan, R., & McCreary, T. (2011). Inscription, innocence, and invisibility: Early contributions to the discursive formation of the North in Samuel Hearne’s A Journey to the Northern Ocean. In Rethinking the great white north: Race, nature, and the historical geographies of whiteness in Canada, ed. A. Baldwin, L. Cameron, and A. Kobayashi. Vancouver: UBC Press, 147–168.


Leaded blood: is the Cerro de Pasco community left out?

By Stefany Ildefonso

Cerro de PascoOn January 17th, 2017, the Ministry of Health of Peru invited the community of Cerro de Pasco to discuss a problem that has been going on for decades. Cerro de Pasco is a village located in the mountains where houses are built around a mine. Due to the presence of this mine and the lack of guidelines and law enforcement for the mining industry, individuals are now dealing with the consequences of this practice. Parents witness their children fainting and showing other symptoms of lead contamination: “Do you know what it feels like to regularly see your daughter faint while having breakfast and feel powerless about it?” Indeed, blood lead levels found in children living in this area can reach up to 4 times the acceptable level set by the Centre for Disease control and prevention standards (CDC 2017). The community has shown significant concern about this issue that affects everyone as they have noticed changes in children, animals, food, water and the environment in general. Because this issue has been going on for years, continuous pressure from community members and NGOs has finally reached politicians.

Cerro de Pasco muralCerro de Pasco mural, by Lorena MenduiñaAnd so, now what? This issue was already known. It was not a matter of awareness. Has the government left out these people? Why hasn’t something been done about it? The complexity of this issue requires participation from industry, the community, environmental scientists and politicians from several ministries. It not only affects human health, but also has unavoidable permanent consequences on the ecosystem. To add another level of complexity, malnutrition can make individuals more susceptible to absorbing lead, therefore increasing the probability of developing symptoms such as anemia. Considering that 43% of children suffered from anemia in the Pasco department – and acknowledging that anemia can be caused by several factors - we can agree that this a major public health issue (INEI, 2012). Some individuals would intuitively think that these people could move somewhere else to stop being constantly exposed to environmental pollution, but it is not that simple. One must consider the socio-economic context and the value attributed to the land, among other factors. Because a single intervention will not be sufficient to tackle this issue, an ecohealth approach including interventions from different perspectives could be beneficial in this context.

The very first meeting demonstrated an expression of interest to move forward with concrete actions, however, as of May 15th, 2018, the situation remains the same…


Centres for disease control and prevention. (2017). What do parents need to know to protect their children?.

Fraser, Barbara (2016). Swallowed by a mine: residents of a city in Peru live with the lingering effects of sprawling, toxic lead mine. Science World/Current science, 5 Sept. 2016, p. 14+.

Instituto nacional de estadística e informática. (2012). Encuesta demográfica y de salud familiar – Departamento de Pasco.

National geographic. (2015). High in the Andes, a mine eats a 400-year old city.

World Health Organization. (2010). Exposure to lead: a major public health concern.



Les étudiantes et étudiants de la formation hybride de 2017 ont rédigé des blogues (anglais seulement), parmi lesquels trois ont été sélectionnés pour paraitre ici.

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.”


It’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 uses Systems 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 Pic

With 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



Trois des blogues rédigés dans le contexte de la huitième école terrain de CoPEH-Canada (2015) ont été publiés sur le site web de la Semaine du Saint-Laurent en collaboration avec la Fondation David Suzuki, dans le cadre de la préparation de la quatrième édition de leur semaine de valorisation du fleuve Saint-Laurent.

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