Chris Furgal

A northern researcher at Trent University speaks about his experience with the NCP and his contribution with partners, to the social science research and communication aspects of the program.

Transcript: Chris Furgal

My name is Chris Furgal. I’m an associate professor in Indigenous Environmental Studies at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario. And I’ve been involved with the Northern Contaminants Program since about 1995 as a PhD student originally, interested particularly in the area of environmental health risk, assessment, management, perception, and communication.

The Northern Contaminants Program is unique in the context of the fact that it is a partnership based program, so you have individuals and representatives of the populations and nations in Arctic regions that are in the unfortunate circumstance of having to bear the risk of contaminant exposure actually being involved around the management table of helping manage and direct the work that’s being done to understand the risks that are taking place or people are being exposed to in their communities.

I think the social science work done within the Northern Contaminants Program, being a social scientist, is some of the most important and some of the most relevant because it really is where the community sees the results of that science being important for them.

So one of the things I’ve been interested in and we’re quite interested in multidisciplinary research and in the social sciences within the Northern Contaminants Program is this opportunity to blend or bring together the best of both knowledge systems that come to bear on our understanding and our information related to food safety and food benefits around the area of traditional foods, country foods, contaminants, and nutrients, working with communities, working with elders, knowledgeable health experts in communities and hunters as well, not only about their perception and their observation of what is happening on the land, what’s safe and not safe to eat, but also the wealth and the wisdom of traditional knowledge or indigenous or Inuit knowledge systems in the context of those regions in informing our understanding about contaminants and food safety as well.

It’s very easy to get very motivated as a researcher and as a scientist in that particular circumstance where you’re doing work where you know it’s relevant to the recipients or to communities, and also it’s helping address a critically important issue in the area of environmental health globally.

One of the other things that I wanted to say about why I really enjoy my job and I’m very passionate and very motivated and dedicated to my job is I have the opportunity to learn from and work with experts on both sides – in the communities and in the lab or at the university. To have the opportunity to sit down at a table and do research and to learn from experts in both areas and to work at that interface is a fascinating and extremely fulfilling and a very unique opportunity, I think.

Biography

Chris Furgal is an Associate Professor at Trent University in the Indigenous Environmental Studies Program. He has a long history of working within the NCP, and was instrumental in the development of the Nunavik Nutrition and Health Committee that represents the NCP within Nunavik. He has contributed greatly to many aspects of the NCP, including co-authoring the "Knowledge in Action" report of the Canadian Arctic Contaminants Assessment Report II and enhancing the program's blueprints for Communication, Capacity Building and Outreach. Chris is also a co-director of the Nasivvik Centre for Inuit Health and Changing Environments.

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