The Health Effects Monitoring Program is a long-term study starting this fall that will attempt to provide answers to questions about Giant Mine’s human legacy, while monitoring the effects of the ongoing remediation of the mine site.
First, by testing samples from residents of the area, the program will establish some much-needed baseline data about current levels of arsenic exposure among the people of Ndilo, Dettah, and Yellowknife. Then, as the timeline shows, the program will continue to monitor arsenic exposure over the next decade and beyond, ensuring that remediation does not have any negative impact on residents’ health.
> Key to the program is making sure that it clearly and conscientiously communicates with the community, providing regular updates and ensuring that the research returns to the participating residents.
The Health Effects Monitoring Program Timeline:
How It Works
Approximately 2,000 Ndilo, Dettah, and Yellowknife residents 6 years of age and above will be invited to participate in the program, selected either through statistically-supported random sampling or voluntary participation. Precautions will be in place to protect participants’ privacy.
The process will include:
- Lifestyle and Food Frequency questionnaires;
- Review of medical records or brief medical exam;
- Biological samples of toenails, urine and saliva (by swabbing the participant’s cheek).
Participants will receive their results, with interpretation, in a personal letter.
Youth participants (ages 6 to 18 in 2017) will be invited to participate in a follow-up
study in 2022/2023, and a follow-up study for all participants is planned for 2027/2028.
Dr. Laurie Chan
Who we are
The Health Effects Monitoring Program team is headed by Principal Investigator Dr. Laurie Chan, a toxicologist from the University of Ottawa. Dr. Chan has over 25 years of experience carrying out health studies in the North while working closely with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities.
Other key team members include project coordinator Renata Rosol, assistant coordinator Stacey Sundberg and research assistant Janet Cheung. The project will also enlist other specialists, as well as part-time researchers.
Partners include the University of Ottawa, the GNWT Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Department of Health and Social Services, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, Health Canada, the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, the North Slave Métis Alliance, the Giant Mine Oversight Board and the City of Yellowknife, with support from Institute for Circumpolar Health Research.
Keeping It Local
A key member of the Health Effects Monitoring Program, Stacey Sundberg is the project’s assistant coordinator.
“I grew up and live in Dettah. I’m a Yellowknives Dene First Nation member. I’m not sure where my interest in the environment came from — I think it’s just a big part of me. Keeping the land and waters clean and safe. I think part of it comes from listening to my elders, and traditional knowledge. I didn’t really know about Giant Mine and arsenic growing up, but ever since we were babies, our elders were always telling us not to harvest around at least a 20-mile radius around Giant Mine, so all my life I knew not to pick raspberries in the area, not to use the spruce gum or spruce bough or spruce trees around Yellowknife, Dettah, Ndilo, do not touch, do not use, do not consume, do not harvest. We wondered why? What’s the big deal? There’s raspberries right there, why can’t we eat them?
So I grew up asking questions. How come? Why not? I came back from school in 2009 from Grand Prairie and I starting becoming involved in the community engagement about the mine. When I first heard about the Health Effects Monitoring program, I thought it was really a good idea to have our people sampled and tested before and during the remediation program, to see the arsenic levels within our human population. To finally start getting some answers. A lot of people have been waiting for this for a long time, especially the First Nations people — every meeting I’ve been to, people are constantly asking — if there’s a study on the environment, is there going to be a study on humans? So I think a lot of people are actually really excited that we are finally starting this process. People are anxious, but really excited.
It’s great that the study has actually hired a local person with community ties to work with the team, because we see a lot of local researchers that come in here and do the research and then they leave.”
The Health Effects Monitoring Program is one of three studies being conducted as part of the Giant Mine Remediation Project. For more information please visit: www.giant.gc.ca
Visit YKHEMP.ca for more information