Book chapter published by the HEC Lab’s Heather Castleden and Emily Skinner

HEC LAB’s Heather Castleden and Emily Skinner recently contributed to a 20-case-study volume on “Adaptation to Climate Change through Water Resources Management: Capacity, Equity and Sustainability” published in August 2014 by Earthscan/Routledge. Their chapter is on Indigenous water rights in Canada. 

Book Description

The impacts of human-induced climate change are largely mediated by water, such as alterations in precipitation and glacial melt patterns, variations in river flow, increased occurrence of droughts and floods, and sea level rise in densely populated coastal areas. Such phenomena impact both urban and rural communities in developed, emerging, and developing countries.

Taking a systems approach, this book analyzes evidence from 26 countries and identifies common barriers and bridges for local adaptation to climate change through water resources management. It includes a global set of case studies from places experiencing increased environmental and social pressure due to population growth, development and migration, including in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North and South America.

All chapters consider the crosscutting themes of adaptive capacity, equity, and sustainability. These point to resilient water allocation policies and practices that are capable of protecting social and environmental interests, whilst ensuring the efficient use of an often-scarce resource.

Adaptation to Climate Change through Water Resource Management-Book Title Image

Adaptation to Climate Change through Water Resources Management_Book Cover








New Publication by the HEC Lab’s Vanessa Sloan Morgan and Heather Castleden

Framing Indigenous–Settler Relations within British Columbia’s Modern Treaty Context: A Discourse Analysis of the Maa-nulth Treaty in Mainstream Media

Vanessa Sloan Morgan

Queen’s University,

Heather Castleden

Queen’s University,


Media plays an integral role in (re)producing our social construction of reality. When viewed in light of Canada’s colonial legacy, media’s power has undoubtedly been implicated in circumscribing Indigenous peoples and Indigenous-settler relations. Employing a discourse analysis of mainstream media covering the recent (2011) implementation of a comprehensive land claims agreement in British Columbia, the study investigates how media has framed contemporary Indigenous-settler relations within the Canadian state. Findings indicate that mainstream media predominantly relies on stereotypes of Indigenous peoples and tends to neglect historical and current political complexities, thereby perpetuating stagnant Indigenous-settler relations. Concluding with empirically derived recommendations, this article points to education reform to create more robust mainstream media able to address stagnated (re)constructions of Indigenous-settler relations.


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):

Environmental Reviews Publishes a HEC Lab Paper

The Human Dimension of Water Safety Plans: A critical review of literature and information gaps

Megan Kot, Heather Castleden, Graham A Gagnon


A safe supply of drinking water is a cornerstone of public health and community wellbeing. Complacency among those responsible for the provision of safe drinking water (e.g. water suppliers, operators, and managers) has led to numerous and otherwise avoidable waterborne outbreaks. Water safety plans present a risk-based, proactive framework for water management, and when properly implemented, virtually eliminates the option for complacency. However, the uptake of water safety plans remain limited worldwide. This paper reports on the experiences of early water safety plan adopters and identifies a number of non-technical operational and human factors that have undermined previous efforts. Specifically, it identifies these factors as a gap in the water safety plan implementation literature and suggests incorporating the broader community in water safety planning through a community readiness approach. Assessing and building community readiness for water safety plans is suggested to be a critical pre-implementation step, and a potential tool for use by water suppliers and by policy makers.

The Canadian Geographer Accepts Paper for Publication

Heather Castleden, along with co-authors, Valorie Crooks (Simon Fraser University) and Ilja van Meerveld (VU University Amsterdam) have just had the following paper accepted for publication in The Canadian Geographer, it will be available online soon:

`Examining the public health implications of drinking water-related behaviours and perceptions: A face-to-face exploratory survey of residents in eight coastal communities in British Columbia and Nova Scotia

In Canada the quality of drinking water and its availability are a reflection of where one lives. Coastal communities, which are particularly susceptible to boil water advisories, present an understudied opportunity to understand drinking water-related behaviours and perceptions. How public health practitioners determine actions needed to prevent water-borne illness is a key factor in the public adopting messaging and/or employing behavioural change. This study involved face-to-face surveys with residents in eight coastal communities in British Columbia and Nova Scotia. All communities had recent histories of boil water advisories and/or water shortages. The findings have significant implications for public health practice seeking to reduce the incidence of water-borne diseases. For example, the respondents had a limited sense of risk of exposure to water-borne illness. This serves as a challenge for public health professionals who are tasked with educating residents about the health benefits and risks associated with drinking tap water, wherein coastal residents not concerned with water quality/availability may view this information as unnecessary. Generally, obtaining a deep understanding of place-based knowledge around health-related issues, as done here, has the potential to impact future policy and management-level decisions and lead to meaningful integration of local perspectives.

Knowledge Integration Project Produces Water Gathering Report

Heather Castleden’s Knowledge Integration Project on Indigenous and Western Knowledge for Water Management in Canada (funded by the Canadian Water Network) has produced a report on its recent national Water Gathering held June 3rd and 4th in Ottawa, Ontario, Traditional Territories of the Algonquin Peoples. The Gathering brought together over 40 Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars, experts and traditional knowledge-holders from across Canada to share their stories and experiences with water, and to hep determine means of assessing/evaluating past water resource management research and practice that has included (or attempted to include) Indigenous knowledges or methodologies from multiple perspectives. You can find the report here.

Thank You Emily!

Emily profile pic-1After two and a half years as the HEC Lab’s Managing Director, Emily Skinner is moving on to pursue a new opportunity in Edmonton, Alberta.

Emily has served as the “brains of the lab”, often juggling multiple, overlapping files. She has been a constant source of support for other staff members as well as students.

Catherine Hart takes over as the HEC Lab’s new Research Assoicate and Project Manager.

On behalf of everyone in the lab, we would like to wish Emily all the best!

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.