Laurie Chan

A researcher in toxicology and environmental health at the University of Ottawa describes his positive experience with the NCP and its engagement with Northerners.

Transcript: Laurie Chan

Sometimes we think about food as just filling our stomach or giving us energy etc. But food actually is more than that. It’s a very important part of our culture. So in the context of the Arctic or the north it really ties the people to the land as well. To protect their food system really is, in a way, protecting the culture of the people.

My name is Laurie Chan. I’m a professor at the University of Ottawa. I’m a toxicologist. Actually NCP helped to launch my career. I think it’s one of the innovative programs that set up to engage the stakeholders which is, in this case, the northerners. Every single step of the project involves the First Nations and the Inuit in the north. So it’s exceptional.

All these relationships, it has to build on trust. And the trust doesn’t come in one year or two years. No, this 20 years of ongoing partnership really contributes to the trust that we have today. Very seldom you hear about a funding program that lasts for 20 years, right? Because the issue is still there, we need to make decisions for public health to protect the health of the people and promote the health of the people.

But in the north all communities are eating a mix of country food – which is harvest [half its?] food – and market food. And a lot of times the market food quality is not very good. So the country food, even though it may not be the major component of the diet, but in terms of nutrition sources it is very critical. That’s why in all communities we really try to promote the use of country food as much as we can.

And since we have this partnership now it’s kind of easy for us to go and say well, let’s do a project together, and everybody understands the process and a different take on the partnership and how to use the data to achieve the objectives, right? So the highlight really is to see people coming up to you and say thank you for your work. We appreciate it. I think that really shows that our work is useful for the people.


Having obtained his PhD at the University of London in Toxicology, Laurie Chan currently serves as the Canada Research Chair in Toxicology and Environmental Health. His work aims to develop a framework to assess the health risks of contaminants as well as to promote healthy environments to protect human health. Dr. Chan has been a leader of several NCP health research projects over the past 2 decades.