As of July 1, 2021, the HEC Lab is going coastal – to the west coast – to the traditional territory of the Songhees, Esquimalt and W̱SÁNEĆ peoples whose historical relationships with the land continue to this day where the University of Victoria is situated.

As of July 1, 2021, the HEC Lab is going coastal – to the west coast – to the traditional territory of the Songhees, Esquimalt and W̱SÁNEĆ peoples whose historical relationships with the land continue to this day where the University of Victoria is situated.

UPDATED – Spotlight on Boat Harbour

Boat Harbour near Pictou Landing
Boat Harbour near Pictou Landing

NEW UPDATE – Mark Gibson, Assistant Professor, Department of Process Engineering and Applied Sciences at Dalhousie University, and Co-Investigator on the project, spoke with the CBC’s Tom Murphy.

Watch the video here (external link).

View Mark’s website here (external link).


UPDATED (First published 16 June 2014) – With the recent media attention of the pulp and paper mill near Pictou Landing, Heather Castleden speaks on CBC’s InfoMorning about the ongoing health effects, enviornmental justice, and racism issues.

Listen to the interview here (external link).


In the 1960s, amidst other resource extraction and industrial development initiatives, in an area characterized by economic disparities, a pulp and paper mill began dumping pollutants into Boat Harbour; it continues to do so today albeit with increasingly sophisticated treatment practices. Despite these pollution checks and controls, Boat Harbour has become a dumping ground for toxic waste, a place of fear and unrest, embroiled in political, legal and economic tension, and rife with environmental health concerns for members of the First Nation and for others living throughout Pictou County. Frustrated and anxious about their children’s health, the Pictou Landing Native Women’s Association has mobilized, wanting to undertake relevant community-based health research in search of a definitive and trustworthy answer to this question: “Are we getting sick from Boat Harbour?”.

  • In 2011, the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) funded a multi-year study to investigate the health effects of Boat Harbour. 

Our research goal for this community-based participatory health project is to document and understand the state of health of Boat Harbour’s constituents from a Two-Eyed Seeing approach that utilizes a number of Indigenous and western research methods to meet this goal. Given that the Mi’kmaq worldview respects the plurality of knowledge, we are using a Two-Eyed Seeing approach that utilizes diverse Mi’kmaq and western knowledge perspectives to confront the socio-political, historical, environmental, legal, and economic imperatives at play in Boat Harbour, all of which play a role in determining the health of the community’s residents.

  • Two-Eyed Seeing combines perspectives from traditional knowledge and western scientific knowledge

Since the project began, it has been featured in a number of media sources. You can read more on the study in the following places (external links):

Upcoming Presentations

Heather- PresentationAugust

  • August 11-15: Heather Castleden @ EcoHealth Conference. Montreal QC
  • August 11-15: Vanessa Sloan Morgan @ EcoHealth Conference. Montreal QC


  • October 5-10: Heather Castleden @ International Network in Indigenous Health Knowledge and Development/Manitoba Network Environment for Aboriginal Health Research Coference.  Winnipeg MB

APTN features story on Boat Harbour

Boat Harbour near Pictou Landing
Boat Harbour near Pictou Landing

Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) ran a three part news story in late March on the health effects of Boat Harbour near Pictou Landing First Nation. Boat Harbour is the site of a toxic waste pond used by a nearby paper mill. The stories highlight recent events in the decades long stuggle to clean up Boat Harbour.

The stories can be viewed here:

Part 1: NS First Nation to decide if it will pursue its lawsuit to clean up harbour (external link)

Part 2: Pictou Landing researches health effects of polluted harbor (external link)

Part 3: Nova Scotia band looks at options to deal with polluted harbour (external link)


A BIG change is coming to the HEC Lab

Castleden B&W Head ShotHEC Lab Director Dr. Heather Castleden is joining the Departments of Geography and Public Health Sciences at Queen’s University.

Dr. Castleden obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree (Anthropology and Native Studies) from the University of Manitoba (1996), a Master of Education Degree (Adult and Higher Education) from the University of Alberta, and a PhD (Health and Environmental Geography) at the University of Alberta. Before taking up her appointment at Dalhousie University, she was a NEARBC and SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Victoria.

Dr. Castleden is a CIHR New Investigator in the area of Knowledge Translation (2013-2018); in addition to this prestigious award, she has received a number of other awards including the Canadian Association of Geographers’ Julian M. Szeicz Award (2010), which is presented annually in recognition of significant research achievement by a Canadian Geographer at an early career stage, specifically in recognition of her contribution to the geography of environment, health and Indigenous community-based participatory research.


The HEC Lab is now on Twitter!

After long and insightful discussions, and an interesting series of discussions it’s been, we’ve finally given in to Twitter!Twitter_logo_blue

At our past reserach group meeting, HEC Lab students and staff talked about the merits and the challenges of using social media as a way of sharing and communicating research activities. And, with some input from HEC Lab alumni Brittany White, we decided to give it a go.

You can follow us here: @fortheHECofit

Community Health & Epidemiology Seminar Series Presentation

Integrating Indigenous and Western Scientific Approaches in Community-Based Participatory Research to Reduce the Health Inequities of Indigenous Peoples in Canada

Presenter: Heather Castleden, Phd (Associate Professor and CIHR New Investigator
School for Resource and Environmental Studies, Dalhousie University)

View Heather’s Biography

Date: Tuesday, November 5, 2013 12:30pm

Location: Centre for Clinical Research, CH&E Classroom #409, 5790 University Avenue

Contact: Jodi Lawrence:, 494-3860

Synopsis: Community-based participatory research (CBPR) is generally understood as a philosophical and methodological approach to engaging in relevant, respectful, responsible, and reciprocal research relationships between researchers and those they research. Rather than a one-sided relationship where the researcher holds the decision-making power about the research design, the data collection, the interpretation of the data, and when/how results are disseminated, community-based-participatory research involves shared decision-making, shared ownership of data, bi-directional research capacity building, and when new knowledge is co-created, it is disseminated in a manner that is mutually beneficial for all those involved. This approach to research involving Indigenous peoples is gaining traction in light of the legacy of unethical research and the ongoing colonial tensions between Indigenous and settler populations in Canada. What’s more, using Indigenous and western scientific approaches in CBPR provides a comprehensive understanding of health inequities from Indigenous perspectives and experiences, rather than focusing on just biomedical pathology and dysfunction. In this seminar, I will elaborate on the “how” and “why” of CBPR involving Indigenous peoples, providing examples from two studies that have employed this integrated approach.

Film Screening: “Climate Change in Atlantic Canada”

David Suzuki - Climate Change and Energy in Atlantic Canada

Join the HEC Lab for the movie premiere of “Climate Change in Atlantic Canada”

A Fundraising Event For Local Environmental Groups, with Dr. David Suzuki

A compelling documentary on the impacts of climate change in Atlantic communities.

Followed by a panel discussion with Dr. David Suzuki, researcher and filmmaker Dr. Ian Mauro, and local and national experts.


When: Friday, November 22: 7pm-9:30 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m

Where: Spatz Theatre: 1855 Trollope Street, Halifax NS

$22 – Buy your tickets online at


All funds generated from this event will be donated to the Ecology Action Centre.

Click here to view the event poster.