Queen’s University is situated on traditional Anishnaabe and Haudenosaunee Territory. Click here to learn more »

In the News:

  • Globe & Mail OpEd
    ‘Heather Castleden just published an OpEd in the Globe and Mail with colleagues, Chantelle Richmond and Chelsea Gabel, entitled ‘With so much at risk, we couldn’t just wait for help’: Indigenous communities and COVID-19

Research for the HEC of It!

The Health, Environments, and Communities Research Lab, situated on the unceded traditional territories of the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe Peoples at Queen’s University, is a qualitative research lab that focuses on producing justice-oriented research that contributes to pathways of social, environmental, and health equity. With a specific focus on Indigenous health and well-being, two-eyed seeing, community-based participatory research, and digital methods, the HEC Lab is a dynamic space where highly qualified personnel are trained and mentored to produce first class research.

Graduate Student Supervision

If you are interested in applying to work with Heather in the HEC Lab at Queen’s University, we encourage you to email Heather with a statement of interest, an up to date copy of your CV, a copy of your unofficial transcripts, as well as an exceptional piece of writing you would like to share. If research interests align, Heather would be happy to chat about graduate supervision prospects or discuss the potential to work on funded graduate projects.

You can learn more about Graduate Studies in the Department of Geography and Planning at Queen’s University here.

Dr. Heather Castleden

Dr. Heather Castleden is a (white) settler guest and scholar on traditional Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee territory at Queen’s University where she is a Canada Research Chair in Reconciling Relations for Health, Environments and Communities.

View Heather’s Bio »

The HEC Lab focuses on reconciliatory, respectful, reciprocal, and responsible community-based participatory research. The Lab is committed to equity-oriented projects that apply social, environmental, and health lenses, and our work comes together through intersections of cultures, places, power/resistance, and relational ethics using innovative, decolonizing research methodologies. The HEC lab is equipped with a wide range of field equipment (audio/video recording, photovoice, and digital story technologies), qualitative data analysis and transcription software, as well as common and individual internet-connected computer work stations. The HEC Lab strives to cultivate the next generation of critically-engaged scholars by providing significant and meaningful research training opportunities for highly qualified personnel.

Current Projects


The Achieving Strength, Health, and Autonomy through Renewable Energy Development for the Future (A SHARED Future) program of research is about reconciliation between knowledge systems is about reconciliation between knowledge systems; it must be foundational to our work together

From this premise, renewable energy is our chosen platform for exploring reconciliation and moving towards healing our relationships with each other and the world around us. Our goal is to bring forward stories of reconciliation and healing in intersectoral partnerships under the umbrella of renewable energy conservation, efficiency, and development. In doing so, we wish to bring to light new and restored understandings of integrative health by sharing our stories, resources, and tools with Indigenous and Settler governments, industries, ENGOs, universities, and beyond.

The A SHARED Future Research Program supports several thematically-linked projects across Canada that will study various types of intersectoral partnerships, with an overall focus on Indigenous peoples’ leadership in renewable energy conservation, efficiency, and development. You can learn more about the A SHARED Future research program and the various projects here.

Our Ancestors are in our Lands, Waters, and Air

To date we have been researching the impacts of the pulp and paper mill in the estuary adjacent to the community of Pictou Landing First Nation, known as A’se’k, which provided us with the foods, medicines, transportation, shelter, and tools we have needed to survive and thrive since time immemorial. Now we want to (1) share our novel health-related knowledge vis-à-vis a documentary film about our integrative research, and (2) using the film as a catalyst, investigate how university-based and community-based researchers across disciplines, professions, and sectors can begin to conceptualize a Two-Eyed Seeing approach in their own research in the spirit of healing and reconciliation in Indigenous health.

Tasii?akqin ?uyaqhmisukqin (Our Journey, Our Story)

Tasii?akqin ?uyaqhmisukqin is the continuation of a long-standing research collaboration with Huu-ay-aht First Nations, one of the five First Nation signatories of the Maa-nulth Treaty. Since 2005, various sources of SSHRC funding have supported the undertaking of a community-driven comprehensive study about the multi-faceted experiences of becoming a Modern Treaty Nation, contributing to the negotiation process and the early years of the implementation journey from community perspectives.

The goal of this new research project is to identify, document, and critically understand and analyze how Huu-ay-aht citizens are experiencing the first decade of implementation as the Nation prepares for the 2026 ‘Periodic Review’ of the Maa-nulth Treaty. Accordingly, our research would run alongside the Huu-ay-aht implementation pathway. In doing so, our study is intended to first contribute to Huu- ay-aht First Nations’ ability to adequately and effectively implement its Final Agreement, second to add to academic critiques of modern treaties, and third to contribute to policy and process alternatives.

Relational Accountability in Post-TRC Times

After a decade of research efforts towards decolonizing the Settler-dominated academy (Castleden et al., 2010; Castleden et al., 2012; Steigman & Castleden 2015; Castleden et al., 2015; Sylvestre, Castleden, Martin, & McNally, 2018; Yeung, Bombay, Walker, Denis, Martin, Sylvestre, & Castleden, 2018; and Sylvestre, Castleden, Denis, Martin, & Bombay, 2019), I found renewed inspiration from reading Adam Gaudry and Danielle Lorenz’s 2018 publication “Indigenization as inclusion, reconciliation, and decolonization: Navigating the different visions for indigenizing the Canadian Academy”.

Their call to action has prompted an expanded trajectory that I will be bringing forward in the next five years around how institutional environments are responding to Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action in curriculum, pedagogy, research, and administration. I have begun two studies, one on “Public Health Sciences: Responses to TRC Call to Action #24” and the other on “Departmental Geographies of Reconciliation”.

Both projects are seeking to understand Canada-wide disciplinary/departmental perspectives on the relevance and importance of the TRC Final Report. These projects align with the TRC’s Call to Action #53, which asks for research into the reconciliation progress across all sectors of Canadian society, including the implementation of all 94 Calls to Action. By interviewing Department Heads from across the country, this research will add important insights to where things are going well and where we are failing. If this is of interest to you, please contact me!