Community-led projects with First Nations and health system partners

In collaboration with various partners, CAREX Canada has been working since 2009 to mobilize information about environmental quality in First Nations communities. Through these efforts, we’ve offered training workshops on CAREX tools for assessing environmental quality, and supported communities to interpret the results of major studies and local measurement data. More recently, we convened a group of advisors and developed a strategic framework (illustrated below) to inform how the CAREX project could most effectively help to address concerns about environmental health in First Nations communities. The strategic plan (available here) centers around the principles outlined below, including OCAP (ownership, control, access, and possession).

This special topics page illustrates how we’ve put this strategic plan into action. It includes the repository of resources we’ve co-developed with First Nations and health system partners through a series of knowledge translation and exchange projects.

Cancer and the Environment Projects – Case studies

With the support of a Knowledge to Action grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and in partnership with the Propel Centre for Population Impact and First Nations Environmental Health Innovation Network (FNEHIN) at the Assembly of First Nations, we put out a call for pilot training projects to over 650 First Nations organizations and communities across Canada. Out of 16 proposals, four projects from around the country were chosen. Through these projects, we collaborated with four First Nations organizations to develop a series of tailored resources to help better understand local concerns, and use that understanding to identify priorities for reducing or eliminating exposures to carcinogens in the environment. It is the collaborative work of these projects that is presented in the case study pods below.

The tailored resources that we developed range from briefing notes on how to test for drinking water quality and how to test for radon gas in homes, to fact sheets about what contaminants may be found in traditional foods such as berries and meat. If you’re interested in having some of these resources tailored to your group or community, please get in touch with us at

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) is an advocate organization for issues that commonly affect all First Nations of Manitoba (64 total). The focus of our work with the Assembly was synthesizing knowledge to help lands and resource staff better understand environmental health issues in the regions. The resources we developed with the Assembly include:  

Mississauga First Nation

The Mississauga First Nation is a traditional territory located directly west of Blind River in Ontario. The focus of our work with Mississauga was developing community outreach materials and enhancing capacity to look at specific concerns such as drinking water quality and radiation exposure. The resources we developed with Mississauga include:  

Timiskaming First Nation

The Timiskaming First Nation is a traditional territory located 50% in Ontario and 50% in Quebec. The focus of our work with Timiskaming was increasing community awareness and enhancing capacity to look at specific concerns, such as radon exposure in homes and contaminants in traditional foods. The resources we developed with Timiskaming include:  

Tribal Chiefs Ventures

Tribal Chiefs Ventures Inc represents six member First Nations in Alberta. The focus of our work with Tribal Chiefs was increasing community awareness and enhancing capacity to look at specific concerns such as cancer cluster investigations and firefighters’ exposures. The resources that we developed with Tribal Chiefs include:  

Additional resources on cancer

Through this project work, we also gathered Aboriginal resources developed by other groups on topics ranging from screening and treatment to traditional food and tobacco. Links to these resources are organized by category and available below. If you’re looking for a specific type of resource and don’t find it below, please get in touch with us at

What is Cancer?

By First Nations:

By other organizations:

Reducing the risk of cancer

By First Nations:

By other organizations:


By First Nations:

By other organizations:

Useful websites


Understanding Aamjiwnaang First Nations’s environmental health journey

In 2017, we were approached by the Indigenous Cancer Control Unit at Ontario Health to support their work with the Aamjiwnaang First Nation near the Sarnia-Lambton “Chemical Valley”, an industrial complex of refining and chemical companies. This community has experienced years of poor air quality, chemical spills, and other exposure events, resulting in serious concerns about environmental quality. In the past decades, Aamjiwnaang has been involved in about 20 related research studies.

Our goal – as identified by the community’s Health Committee and supported by a CIHR Catalyst grant – was to work with Ontario Health to consolidate these data and to describe a more complete account of environmental quality in the area, including the potential cancer risk associated with outdoor air exposures in particular. The approach to this project was to integrate academic tools with Indigenous knowledge, and collaborate respectfully and effectively with the community. We co-developed a useful set of knowledge products to Aamjiwnaang in their efforts to better understand environmental impacts on health. These include a set of digital stories that use a collage of images overlaid with project results to illustrate and describe the influences and realities of environment and health in the community. These knowledge products are currently being finalized and will be posted as soon as they’re available.



Supporting conversations between First Nations communities and health system partners about environmental contaminants

Through our work on environmental quality in First Nations communities, we’ve identified an opportunity for supporting conversations between communities and health system partners about contaminants. In late 2018, we convened partners from the First Nations Health Authority, the Indigenous Cancer Care Unit at Ontario Health, and BC Cancer to discuss what this support could look like. The result of that meeting is some established processes and principles for working together, a series of potential approaches and knowledge products, and a commitment to reconvening to develop an action plan.



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The CAREX Canada team offers two regular newsletters: the biannual e-Bulletin summarizing information on upcoming webinars, new publications, and updates to estimates and tools; and the monthly Carcinogens in the News, a digest of media articles, government reports, and academic literature related to the carcinogens we’ve classified as important for surveillance in Canada. Sign up for one or both of these newsletters below.

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