Introducing our Knowledge Leaders!

Andre Anne Parent
Andre-Anne Parent

I am a community organizer, actually finishing a Ph.D. in community health, specialized in health promotion. I am passionate about community development and environmental justice. From the beginning, my studies were oriented to better understand community revitalization and planning from a health promotion perspective. I have accompanied many organizations and health professionals towards participative ways of reducing health inequities and hope that the training will help me go a step further. I still need to understand what are the barriers to change and how we can act collaboratively towards those changes, in order to conduct community-based research, intervene creatively, support organizations and people and finally, create vibrant and healthy communities.

Bec Hoskins

BecsIn my natural element on the west coast, I have called Vancouver Island home for nearly 10 years. I currently wear a number of professional ‘hats’ that are connected to my passionate interest in children’s environmental health. As the executive director of the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada, I facilitate a diverse collaborative team from across the country working to improve children’s health and well-being through ensuring all children and families have the opportunity to connect with the outdoors. I compliment this non-profit work with my role as a community engagement specialist with the BC Ministry of Environment where I develop programs and partnerships to engage diverse communities with nature. In both these roles I am particularly interested in the complexities and incredible potential in authentic collaboration. I am also a board member with Power to Be Adventure Therapy Society which reaches over 500 children and families annually with accessible and inclusive outdoor recreation experiences. My life has led me to become a part of a diverse range of communities – from Saudi Arabia to Florida, Nepal to Idaho, Ontario to Haida Gwaii. Along the way, I completed a BSc and MSc in geography from the University of Victoria, with two years as a National Science and Engineering Research Council Canadian Graduate Scholar. I live in Victoria with my husband and big goofy mutt named Gator. And most importantly, I feed my inner child on a daily basis with gardening, commuting by bike, road trips, cooking, paddling, spontaneous dancing, and never taking myself too seriously. I’m really looking forward to participating in the Knowledge Leaders course with CEHE – I have no doubt that the experience and the connections I make will be a timely opportunity to broaden my perspective on environmental health equity, connect with a dynamic group of peers and mentors, and enjoy time out from my busy day-to-day to think critically and deepen my commitment to this work.


Brenda Apetagon

BrendaTansi, my name is Brenda Apetagon I’m from Norway House, Mb but currently reside in Thompson, Mb where I currently work as a Coordinator for Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO). I have lived most my life in Northern Manitoba and love it. I have one child his name is Liam, he’s a 4 year old vibrant and charismatic little boy who changed my life. I currently hold a degree in Social Work and plan on pursuing my master’s degree in the near future; I’m hoping that this project will help me in determining a master’s program.

I was very happy and pleased for being selected as a candidate for this pilot project on Children’s Environmental Health, the region where I grew up and where I continue to live continues to face many challenges and adversities. Many of our communities still remain isolated and without clean drinking water; housing and health in First Nation communities across our region and nationally continue to be threatened. I’m hoping that this project will give me insight and direction for new and innovative projects and programs out there and also to learn and grow with the other candidates selected on Children’s Environmental Health.


Carolina G’ala

Carolina.JPGEveryone has a right to make informative decisions to all their habits in their lifetime regardless of their social location. Habits that just flow with their being, like brushing our teeth, like eating, like sleeping, like making decisions all day long. We chose where to go, what to eat, what to wear, who to love… That’s simply our right. Children learn by mimicking others, therefore a nurture and clean environment is crucial. We develop the passion, skills and network to healthy impact our actions during childhood, essential keys to become advocates of our own bodies & minds, to succeed as champions in our communities and grow at large. Adults were given the children’s voices to advocate for. It is our responsibility to be aware of the magnificent opportunity to contribute to our next generations and succeed on the legitimate expectations.

In my road to succeed, I bring ecological equity, social advocacy, healthy living and anti-oppression into everything that I do. I am the creative director of Project E, an initiative to green community facilities in Toronto, Girls Taking Green Roots , a set of eco-social projects made by newcomer female identified youth, Global Roots Garden , an intergenerational gardening program between newcomer youth and elders, the Exchange, a cultural, ecological & holistic opportunity between newcomer and aboriginal youth and QAN ~ Queer Arts Network. I chair CultureLink Settlement Services Equity and Diversity Committee, I sit on their Eco-Action Committee and I am part of the board of directors of Cycle Toronto, formerly known as the Toronto Cyclist Union. I am the co-founder of Cleanearthdesign, an Eco Architectural Studio creating innovative, fun and healthy spaces and a proud mom to my fantastic 2 ½ year old daughter, Luna~Tai. This national project is my next endeavour.


Caryn Thompson

I am currently employed as a health promoter at South Riverdale Community Health Centre in Toronto where my work focuses on children’s environmental health issues, specifically facilitating workshops for pregnant women and new parents about minimizing toxic exposures and liaising with local schools to educate about and improve indoor air quality. Previous work experience has focused on the fields of environmental education, medical research, knowledge translation and community development and engagement. I hold a degree from McGill University in Environmental Studies and I’m currently completing (part-time) a Master of Public Health (MPH) from the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at University of Toronto. I’m also the mother of two young boys who keep me entertained and inspired. When possible, I try to squeeze in some triathlon training in the summer and hockey in the winter.

I am excited about the Knowledge Leaders training session because it is a marriage of the issues that I’m most passionate about – children’s health, the environment, vulnerable populations, research, community advocacy, and knowledge translation. I hope that the training will provide an opportunity for me to share my experience; to forge important relationships and collaborations; to identify gaps in the current knowledge base; and to develop knowledge and tools that can help improve the health and environment of Canada’s most marginalized populations.


Diana Campbell

DianaI am a Mi’kmaq woman from Indian Brook First Nation in Nova Scotia (NS). I have worked mainly for, or with, Aboriginal organizations in Ontario and NS, as well as government, the private sector, and non-profit. I completed a Master of Resource and Environmental Management degree at Dalhousie University (Halifax, NS) in 2010. In this program I focused on Environmental Assessment. Other coursework included Law and Policy/Socio-Political Dimensions/Biophysical Dimensions of Resource and Environmental Management, and Environmental Informatics (GIS). As a project, I developed an Environmental Assessment Toolkit for the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) to be used by Aboriginal women across Canada to become more engaged in environmental assessment processes in their area. Through NWAC, I was asked to facilitate Nuclear Waste Management discussions with the provincial women’s organizations in Saskatchewan, Ontario, New Brunswick and NS. This work fulfilled the Internship requirement of my degree.

Let me introduce the issue I am currently involved with. Pictou Landing First Nation (PLFN) is a community that borders a body of water called Boat Harbour, off the Northumberland Strait, on the northern shores of NS. In the 1960s, a pulp and paper mill was constructed a few miles from PLFN. In 1967, the Government of Nova Scotia built a Treatment Facility to treat wastewater effluent from the mill. The effluent is pumped overland through pipes from the mill into Boat Harbour. The mill owner has operated the facility since 1997. The women of PLFN fear that their health, and the health of their families, has been compromised by the continued operation of the Treatment Facility. They feel the impacts on their community have been under-studied and neglected by leadership, government, and industry. The PLFN women have come together in an effort to get answers to long-standing questions concerning the social, physical, and environmental health of their community and the impact that Boat Harbour has had on their community since it was first constructed.

Through my involvement with NWAC, I was asked by Cheryl Maloney, President of Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association, to meet with the PLFN Native Women’s Association in October 2010, to discuss options for getting answers to their questions. I recommended that I invite Dr. Heather Castleden from the Dalhousie School of Resource and Environmental Studies to meet with the women. Dr. Castleden met with the women and committed to lead a research project on behalf of the women. On March 5, 2012, it was announced that Dr. Castleden was the successful recipient of a Canadian Institute of Health Research Operating Grant in the amount of $444,639 to fund Our ancestors are in our water, land, and air: A ‘Two-Eyed Seeing’ approach to researching environmental health concerns with Pictou Landing First Nation. I am a co-investigator on this project. I am also a Research Assistant on another project being lead by Dr. Castleden and funded by the Atlantic Aboriginal Health Research Program, Identifying, Documenting, Mapping, and Mobilizing Environment and Health Knowledge in Pictou Landing: An Environmental Health Survey and will be responsible for overseeing the community-based household-level environmental health survey with the PLFN community.

I have completed the full course requirement for the PhD program in the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at Dalhousie University and will start the comprehensive exam stage of the program in May. I have successfully completed Quantitative Analysis for the Social Sciences I and II, and have focused on research that processes Aboriginal health indicators for both on and off-reserve populations. I have identified several gaps and methodological challenges in trying to assess the health of First Nation populations.


Gabrielle Kretzschmar

GabrielleI was born in Germany (former East) in 1955, and educated primarily through the German public school system. In November 1980 my family (parents and brother) immigrated to Canada where we lived in the province of Ontario for approximately three month. In January 1981 I moved to New Brunswick, where I am residing since then in Upper Hampstead, Queens County, approximately 60 km south of the capital city Fredericton in a rural district. I became a Canadian Citizen in 1984 and married my husband Bernd (German). We have two grown-up children, boys of 23 and 18 years old and we own and manage an independent family farm enterprise; a four hundred acre cattle and horse ranch.

In the mid 1980s I became an executive member, and later, Vice-President /Treasurer of the ‘New Brunswick Partners in Agriculture, a provincial non-profit agriculture producer organization. From the mid 1990s on I became more involved with ‘environmental’ community organizations through several provincial and Canadian national groups/organizations (e.g. New Brunswick and Canadian Environmental Network, During those years up to today I am very active through this multi-organizational work and have gained very valuable experience by participating in countless conferences, meetings and government consultations on a local, provincial, national, as well as international level. One of the major projects I have participated in was the ‘Endocrine Disruption’ Study (Title: ‘Unnatural Hazards: How Pesticides affect Reproduction and Development in Rural Communities’, Report in January 2001), initiated and carried out by the Conservation Council of New Brunswick. My participation in this project through extensive research and writing sections of the final book, triggered my further interest in different areas of research subjects to explore the links and synergistic effects between agriculture-health-environment, as well as and including human health. Since 2005 I am actively involved (member of strategic committee and Team Research) in a New Brunswick Collaborative ‘Children’s Environmental Health’ initiative, which has become very successful through the years and is still ongoing, I have also been a representative for CBD (Convention of Biodiversity) Alliance Advisory Board ( ), and since 2001 I am also a member of the New Brunswick ‘Climate Change Hub’ Advisory Committee, which is still active today. When I am not working I pursue my hobbies in outdoor recreation (boating and swimming), reading, writing, research and music.


Jess Leppik

JessAs a community activist and advocate from Winnipeg, Manitoba I am most looking forward to being a part of a large-scale initiative that strives for social betterment, as well as learning from the rich and diverse experiences of my fellow Knowledge Leaders. Currently, I am a Program Coordinator at a non-profit community organization called Wolseley Family Place; the majority of the demographic I work with are low-income families who are chronically subjected to the pervasive and multi-dimensional effects of poverty, marginalizaton and their social environment. My academic credentials in Women’s and Gender Studies and Psychology have afforded me not only a strong research background but a feminist consciousness and humanistic approach in looking at social issues as determinants of health and well-being. I also have a variety of different experiences in community organizing and activism, from fundraising to planning marches such as the 100th International Women’s Day March and enjoy transforming theory and politics into praxis.


Jillian Ramsay

Jillian.JPGJillian Ramsay is a designer and community art facilitator living in Winnipeg, Manitoba. There she has taken on a number of roles since 2006 with Graffiti Art Programming Inc, a not-for-profit urban arts centre. As an administrator and developer of programs and projects, Jillian’s focus is rooted in her understanding of the impact of visual culture on communities and individuals. This includes the impact of inclusive projects that validate wide audiences and their experiences within the arts sector. Aligned with Graffiti Art Programming’s mandate, Ramsay focuses on the asset of youth culture and informal mentorships opportunities to create vibrant cultural experiences for marginalized young people.

Kate Butler

Kate ButlerI am a PhD Candidate & Sessional Instructor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Victoria, and my work looks at the ways that young people’s experiences as citizens are shaped by environmental factors. I am passionate about youth engagement issues both academically and in the community, and have worked on a number of youth-led projects in the Greater Victoria area over the years. I have found that young people are often very interested in participating in their communities, but are not able to do so because of limited access to basic human rights. If children and youth were better able to have their rights and needs met, their paths to resiliency would be easier.

I love living in Victoria with my partner and my busy toddler, especially because we can play outside all year long! I am really excited about the opportunity to engage with policy-makers, community activists, and academics from across the country to discuss ways to make our communities more equitable for everyone. I look forward to learning about strategies and tools that are currently being used to create and sustain healthy communities, and am very hopeful that we will find new ways to challenge the status quo around issues of poverty, inclusion and resilience in Canada.


Kirsten Hargreaves

KirstenKirsten Hargreaves is the Social Development Manager for the District of Mission, British Columbia. Kirsten possesses a Montessori Teaching Diploma, Certificate in Applied Behavioural Analysis for children on the autism spectrum, a B.A in Psychology and Sociology from the University of Victoria and is at the end of her M.A in Counselling Psychology. As Social Development Manager, Kirsten oversees the implementation of a Social Development Plan as well as over a dozen community based working groups working in areas such as affordable housing, food insecurity and child and family development. Kirsten is also involved in a 5 year longitudinal research study on community mental health literacy. Kirsten looks forward to participating in the Knowledge Leaders in Children’s Environmental Health National Training Program and both sharing and learning from others passionate about the role nature and environment play as protective factors in children’s mental health and expanding upon existing knowledge and research.


Linor David

LinorHi, my name is Linor David and I am an Early Years Health Promoter at Central Toronto Community Health Centre, located in downtown Toronto. I work with newcomer women and children around civic engagement and I coordinate a gardening program at multiple Community Health Centres, focused on improving mental health, physical activity and healthy eating through gardening. I am also the mother of two young children and my partner is actively involved in setting up a food co-op in Toronto. I love biking around on my new long tailed cargo bike with my kids on top and fresh food from the farmer’s market in the panniers. I’m looking forward to meeting the other leaders in Vancouver, learning from each other and being inspired by new ideas. I can’t wait to see what types of interesting collaborations might come out of it!


Nancy Lynn McGee

Nancy McGee.JPGGreetings CEHE collaborators! My name is Nancy McGee, and I’m looking forward to meeting everyone in Vancouver.

Professionally speaking, I work as the Supervisor, Education Program Services at Toronto and Region Conservation (TRCA), collaborating with a variety of school boards, foundations, municipal partners, and NGO’s to provide outdoor experiential education opportunities in Ontario. Central to this goal is ensuring equitable access to such experiences. Our team also develops professional development opportunities for teachers through programs like the Monarch Teacher Network of Canada, as well as supports sustainability efforts of formal and nonformal education facilities through programs like Ontario EcoCentres and Peel EcoSchools.

Academically speaking, I am currently completing my first year in the PhD program, Education, at York University, Toronto, indulging my interest of values, evaluation, and the relevance of emotions in learning, as they relate to environmental education.

It is with great enthusiasm that I will be joining this team and exploring more deeply the relationships between children’s psychological, physical, and emotional health, and the natural environment.


Osnat Wine

OsnatOsnat has a BSc. from the Hebrew University in Israel. She has also completed a Master’s degree in Environmental Studies at York University, Toronto, focusing on environmental health and communication. Her research focused on fish consumption presenting complex messaging, which includes both health benefits and health risks. She recently published a paper focusing on fish consumption and children. Since 2010 Osnat has been a part of the Children’s Environmental Health Clinic (ChEHC) team at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. She supports activities within the ChEHC, such as the development of a website, but mainly acts as the research coordinator of an interdisciplinary research team. The team is using National Pollutant Release Inventories (NPRI) data, population data (including Socio-economic variables), and possible health outcomes to create maps that will support the identification of children at high-risk areas in Canada. Osnat provides research support and is also engaged in knowledge synthesis research. Osnat’s main interests and goals are to promote awareness and knowledge of children’s environmental health by improving knowledge translation of environmental research and other available evidence based information.


Paivi Abernethy

PaiviI am a PhD candidate in Social and Ecological Sustainability at the University of Waterloo and a true transdisciplinary scholar, combining natural sciences with environmental and health studies. I have been interested in environmental toxicology and health for several decades but did not have a chance to centre my focus on children’s environmental health until now. I have a M.Sc. in Biochemistry from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and M.Res. in Public Health Research from Lancaster University in the UK. I am a new Canadian, who was working in public health in Northern Ontario and with Aboriginal populations, before going back to school two years ago. I was also engaged in OPHA’s children’s environmental health working group and CPCHE during those years. My academic interests zoom in on the role of knowledge in sustainability governance, health promotion and ecohealth, with special attention to children’s environmental health. I am currently teaching a course in Environmental Justice and Health at the University of Waterloo.


Scott Venners

Scott VennersThe Knowledge Leaders in Children’s Environmental Health program will be an important step in my effort to become an engaged environmental health researcher. I am currently an Assistant Professor of Molecular Environmental Epidemiology at the Simon Fraser University Faculty of Health Sciences. My ideal is to learn how to become a part of social movements for children’s environmental justice that utilize research practice and/or research knowledge as part of their activities. But, to do this I need new mentors and associates to orient and teach me because I do not have much experience in this domain. The Knowledge Leaders in Children’s Environmental Health program is a perfect opportunity from my perspective to enable me to make the next step in my evolution as an academic researcher and citizen.


Shawna Babcock

Shawna BabcockFor the past 15 years of my professional life and decade as a parent, I have learned, been shaped, shared and gained insights from the environment around me – communities where I live and work, children, co-workers and networks. My passion for children’s health equity and it’s link with physical activity (including play), access to the natural environment and the opportunities we have to share it with them defines both my work and my role as a parent of three young children.

Professionally, I have contributed to the development and growth of 2 grassroots, community based organizations as a founding director and am currently the Executive Director of KidActive – Healthy Children, Communities and Environment. As an organization, we have contributed to regional, provincial and national collaboratives and events with common goals and a shared vision. Based in Ontario, my work currently focuses on building healthy communities and contributing effectively to collaborative partnerships and networks that address the social determinants of health and use an ecological approach to community development.

I value being a part of the Knowledge Leaders in Children’s Environmental Health and am excited for the opportunity to share insights, knowledge and action with such a diverse group of community leaders who share common threads. New perspectives and networks are invaluable to the collective impact that we are able to make on children’s health, equity issues and our environment.


Soni Dasmohapatra

Soni D.My father is always looking for a new adventure, he migrated to Edmonton, Alberta from India in the 1960’s to pursue higher studies and make Canada his home. My mother came to Edmonton in the 70’s excited about what her new life would hold for her. I was born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta – a Prairie girl with South Asian influences. After I completed my Bachelor of Arts at the University of Alberta, I went on a journey to India. Returning to Edmonton I realized that I needed to seek new adventures myself, so I decided to move to Toronto. Toronto is a city with lion’s energy, I found new adventures every day. Many of these adventures included laughing, dancing and supporting children and youth to reach their full potential. As I reflect on these diverse escapades I have come to this conclusion; even though the geography of Edmonton and Toronto are different, the attitudes of Edmontonians and Torontonians are different, I often get asked the same question … Where are you from? The constant questioning of my identity when I am just a Canadian is consistent no matter where I have been in Canada. The Children’s Environmental Health Training Program is an excellent platform to explore how a question like “Where are you from”, informs and creates policies, attitudes and resources that influence the environment and experiences that children will grow, play and learn in.


Steve Barnes

Steve BarnesI am a Policy Analyst at the Wellesley Institute – a Toronto-based non-profit and non-partisan research and policy institute that engages in research, policy, and community mobilization to advance population health. I have an MA in political science from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Prior to joining the Wellesley Institute I worked as a policy advisor for the Government of Ontario and I have also held positions in the New Zealand public sector and at Victoria University.

The Knowledge Leaders in Children’s Environmental Health Program appealed to me because this area faces ‘wicked’ policy challenges – the problems to solve are large and complex and the barriers to change are significant. It is only by developing comprehensive initiatives that identify and use the most effective levers and mechanisms that such complex issues can be addressed.


Tin Vo

Tin VoMy name is Tin and I am currently completing a Master of Public Health, specializing in Health Promotion Studies (course-based) at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. My undergraduate degree was in molecular bio logy and genetics, which is completely different from my current area of study. The switch from lab bench research (after four years of it) to working with populations is due to my interest in interacting with people, rather than microscopic organisms – the little critters don’t talk with you.

I grew up in Toronto, Ontario, and now my parents are located in Niagara Falls. I enjoyed living in Niagara Falls for the few years prior to moving to Guelph for my undergraduate degree. The scenery along the river is magnificent – I usually run or ride my bike along the river when I am home visiting my parents. I love cities with large green spaces. I lucked out when I moved to Edmonton and the beautiful the river valley that is well maintained most of the year. Notwithstanding the awful, awful cold (and urban sprawl), I have enjoyed the nature pockets found in Edmonton.

I am interested in the built environment and its influence on human health, as well as addressing health inequalities for those living at the margins. I am an environmentalist at heart, and endeavour to uphold the ‘one health’ concept, whereby all life on Earth is connected, including humans, animals, and the planet. This interest is linked with my research work. Currently, I work as a research assistant with Dr. Jane Springett at the Centre for Health Promotion Studies. The focus of our project is children’s engagement in low-carbon or sustainable lifestyles, specifically active transportation, such as walking or cycling, and participation in community/school gardens. The primary aim of this study is to understand children’s perceptions or attitudes regarding the influence of low-carbon healthy lifestyles on their health in the context of climate change. One secondary aim is to explore what barriers and facilitators exist for children to adopt these lifestyles. I am interested in using a participatory methodology to engage children in my research to understand their attitudes regarding these sustainable lifestyles. This project is still at the proposal stage, feedback would be welcomed!

I am looking forward to the knowledge leaders training program because I will be able to take a look at my research project a little more critically with a lens and framework with which to work; that is, through children’s health equity lens. I hope to further my interest and apply my academic knowledge working cross-culturally and addressing (environmental) health inequities in vulnerable populations, especially children. In addition, I hope to expand my experience in collaborating with a vast range of stakeholders and partners in this conversation of children and environmental health, particularly in the built environment.