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Email from Health Canada on July 25

:

Mike,

Please find below Health Canada's responses to your questions.

Also note that I'm going away and your further requests on this matter should be
re-directed to my colleague xxxx (cc'd) and / or you can always call our media
line at :xxx-xxx-xxxx

Kind regards,

.

***********************************
 
Q1 # # # #Who at Health Canada reviewed the findings of the report and what
were their qualifications?
Health Canada only provided funding and was not involved in the development of
the study, nor did the Department participate in the study. In its review of the
study’s findings presented in the final report, Health Canada has concluded that
the study is limited in         scope and that it does not provide conclusive
evidence to characterise human health impacts related to oil sands development.
Health Canada departmental staff with expertise in chemical surveillance in First
Nations communities, as well as Health Canada experts in toxicological analysis
of foods were provided with an opportunity to review the final draft of the report
shortly after it was         released to communities in February 2014. The
departmental review focused primarily on the toxicological aspects of the report
as this is the focus of the First Nations Environmental Contaminants Program.
 
Q2 # # # #Will this person or these people be available for interviews in the
future?
#
As Health Canada was not directly involved in this research, we would suggest it
is more appropriate to interview the researchers who issued the report.
 
Q3 # # # #Were any of Health Canada’s experts instructed by management to
not to work with the lead author and contribute to the study?
#
While Health Canada funded this research, the project itself was done
independently under the direction of the community by external researchers.  At
no point were staff instructed to "not work with" the lead author.

Q4 # # # #How would Health Canada define providing assistance to help these
stakeholders “understand” the findings?
#
The Department is committed to working with stakeholders to assist them in
understanding the findings. For example, the Department can provide additional
information around context for the study’s findings.  Examples of additional
information could include         chemical levels in wild species from other areas of
Canada and the world for comparison.  Furthermore, it could be useful to point
out that based on existing information on pathways for human exposure the
human health risk is very low.  Similarly, the Department         could facilitate
understanding of the health status findings of the study, which represent a
reflection of subjective health perceptions of the study participants, by including
an objective picture of the general health of study participants and a statistically  
              representative sample of community members.
 
Q5 # # # #Given that commercial oil sands development began more than 50
years ago, does Health Canada have an explanation for why it will be
waiting until 2015 to release a study on baseline data about environmental
hazards?
Numerous studies have been undertaken to explore the possible effects of oil
sands development. In 2013, the Governments of Canada and Alberta launched
an online portal for accessing oil sands environmental monitoring data and
information.
Furthermore, Health Canada has been working with the Province and First
Nations communities to support a comprehensive baseline study for communities
near the oils sands since 2007. Effective partnerships take time to develop and
achieving consensus on         the direction for a community baseline health study
requires extensive engagement with participating First Nations communities so
that the study can provide an effective base for addressing the short and long
term health needs identified by all participants.
Q6 # # # #Does Health Canada have an expert available who would be able to
explain how this baseline data would be produced and what its experts
would do to evaluate the past few decades of development?
#
Please refer to the web page of the First Nations, Food Nutrition and
Environment Study at www.fnfnes.ca for detailed information on the kind of
baseline data this study develops. Please contact the Principal Investigators of
the FNFNES if you have specific         questions.
   
Q7 # # # #When you wrote that “communities are encouraged to submit their
own funding proposals” as a part of the contaminants program’s goals, did
you mean that there are proactive efforts by Health Canada to “encourage”
these # # # # funding proposals? Or did you mean that the program
“welcomes” new funding proposals. # If there are some proactive efforts to
encourage funding proposals, would you be able to provide me with
examples of what those # # # # are?
 The First Nations Environmental Contaminants Program was established in
1999/2000 and publishes an annual Call for Proposals distributed to all First
Nations across Canada, proactively inviting proposals from First Nations
communities working in collaboration with scientists to investigate environmental
contaminants issues of concern to communities.  This is one of very few
programs in the world that funds Indigenous communities to lead and undertake
this type of work.. Furthermore, this is the only chemicals monitoring        
program in Canada that specifically address the needs of First Nations living
south of the 60
th
parallel. You may want to view the 2014-2015 Call for Proposals.
Also, a copy of the 2011 poster that provides a list of some recent projects is
attached to this response.



Merci / Thank you!


Email from Health Canada on July 18




Good morning Mr. De Souza,

please find below response to your follow up questions you had with Health
Canada.

------

The “Environmental and Human Health Implications of the Athabasca Oil Sands”
study was partially funded under the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch
National First Nations Environmental Contaminants Program, which examines
the links between human health and environmental contaminants.  

This national Health Canada Program funds projects designed to enable First
Nations communities (on-reserve) south of 60° to identify, characterise and,
whenever possible, reduce human exposures to toxic substances and mitigate
health risks associated with exposure to environmental contaminants.
 Communities are encouraged to submit their own funding proposals as one of
the Program’s goals is to enable communities to become informed about
potential health risks and take preventive action with the foundation of better
knowledge.

Health Canada only provided funding and was not involved in the development of
the study, nor did the Department participate in the study.
In its review of the study’s findings presented in the final report, Health Canada
has concluded that the study is limited in scope and that it does not provide
appropriate and conclusive evidence to characterise human health impacts
related to oil sands development.  The report reflects findings based on data from
community members who volunteered to be interviewed and self-report their
perceptions and experiences, complemented by data from a small sample of
wildlife specimen observations and toxicological analysis.  Self-reported medical
information provided by community members was not validated with
epidemiological data.  As part of its review, Health Canada provided the Principal
Investigator with specific information concerning some of the toxicological
reference values that had been used in the draft report.The qualitative
methodology used limits the ability to compare findings with those of other similar
studies.  The report found that various traditional foods are consumed at low
levels and do not pose significant human health risks. Since Health Canada
provided funding for the study, Health Canada’s review of the University of
Manitoba study does not constitute a complete and independent peer review.
#
To support the need for more information, the department currently provides $1.4
M annually (an estimated $12.8 M over 10 years) for the longitudinal, Assembly
of First Nations led First Nations Food, Nutrition and Environment Study
(FNFNES). An Alberta phase of the study was implemented last year.  The
information collected will contribute to the baseline data called for in the
University of Manitoba report and will increase understanding of issues First
Nations are facing in relation to food, nutrition and the environment.  The results
are expected to be released in the summer of 2015. More information about the
FNFNES can be found here: http://www.fnfnes.ca/ #
#
Health Canada also remains committed to contributing to a further collaborative
community health study with Alberta Health, Alberta Health Services, and First
Nations.

-----

Kind regards,


Email from Health Canada on July 10

Hello Mike,

Sorry we can't accommodate your request for an interview. Please find below the
response to your question.

Kind regards,


*************

Q: I'm looking to find out whether any Health Canada scientists or professionals
have reviewed or are in the process of reviewing the oilsands health study
released this week by a University of Manitoba professor and if any would be
available for an interview to comment on the findings.

Response:

" Health Canada has reviewed the findings of the report and concluded that
the study is preliminary and limited in scope. The report does not provide any
conclusive evidence of human health risks related to oil sands development.

" Health Canada agrees that more information is required and has already
funded the First Nations Food, Nutrition and Environment Study in Alberta, which
will contribute to the baseline data called for in the report on First Nations diets
and food-related exposure to environmental hazards and will involve members of
communities near oil sands.  The final report will be released in the summer of
2015.

" Health Canada is committed to working collaboratively with Alberta Health,
Alberta Health Services, and these First Nations communities to assist them in
understanding the findings.


Merci / Thank you!



***************
Media Relations Officer | Agente de relations avec les médias
Regulatory Communications and Media Relations Division | Division des
communications réglementaires et des relations avec les médias
Health Canada | Santé Canada
Government of Canada | Gouvernement du Canada




Email sent to Health Canada on July 10:



Hi,

I have some follow up questions:

What does Health Canada mean when it says that the study is preliminary and
limited in scope? How is it preliminary and limited in scope?
Who at Health Canada reviewed the findings of the report and what were their
qualifications?
Will this person or these people be available for interviews in the future?
Did Health Canada attempt to participate in the study?
Were any of Health Canada's experts invited to contribute to or review the study
by its lead author?
Were any of Health Canada’s experts instructed by management to not to work
with the lead author and contribute to the study?
What is the total amount of funding provided by Health Canada for the First
Nations Food, Nutrition and Environment Study in Alberta?
Is all of this funding related to communities that live near the oilsands or if not,
what percentage of this funding is related to communities that live near the
oilsands?
Can you provide examples that demonstrate Health Canada’s commitment to
working collaboratively with the First Nations communities and the provincial
government to assist them in understanding the findings?
How would Health Canada define providing assistance to help these
stakeholders “understand” the findings?
Given that commercial oilsands development began more than 50 years ago,
does Health Canada have an explanation for why it will be waiting until 2015 to
release a study on baseline data about environmental hazards?
Does Health Canada have an expert available who would be able to explain how
this baseline data would be produced and what its experts would do to evaluate
the past few decades of development?

thanks very much,

Mike De Souza