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Canadian Public Health Association

Plenary sessions

This section is subject to change.

Public Health 2020 will feature three plenary sessions on public health issues that deserve deeper examination and action.

Climate change, human health and the public health response

Tuesday 28 April     8:30 - 10:00

Climate change is identified as “the greatest health threat of the 21st century” and it is recognized that “the effects of climate change are being felt today and future projections represent an unacceptably and potentially catastrophic risk to human health.” Communities across Canada are already dealing with the health effects of climate change. Many of the policies needed to fight climate change could also produce health benefits, reduce health care costs, and improve social cohesion and equity in communities. The public health community has a dual role in addressing climate change: it needs to mitigate the impact of climate change on human health as well as support upstream interventions. The panelist will explore the actions that the public health community needs to take at the local, regional, national and international levels in order to slow the rate of global warming. We are running out of time. By the time today’s toddlers are in high school, our window for the most effective action will have closed. We are the last generation that has the opportunity to make the changes needed to avoid catastrophic climate change. Climate change must be treated like the public health emergency that it is.


  • Chris Buse, Postdoctoral Fellow, Canadian Institutes of Health Research; UBC Centre for Environmental Assessment Research

Public health, truth and reconciliation

Wednesday 29 April     8:30 - 10:30

A national discourse is taking place concerning historic and current relationships between Canadians and the distinct societies of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples in Canada. Reconciliation – the building of relationships with Indigenous Peoples that respect their values, ways, and cultures – has been at the forefront of this discussion. Fundamental to a public health approach are the principles of trust, respect, engagement, transparency, and fairness; thus, discussions of how the health of populations are assessed, protected and improved are a foundation upon which healthier relationships can grow. When building relationships with Indigenous partners, the public health community needs to recognize and respect the diverse knowledge systems of Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous ways need to be equally valued and interwoven with public health approaches. In doing so, public health practitioners can play a key role in educating the public and communicating innovative, mutually advantageous solutions, to decision-makers. During this session, panelists will provide an overview of the process of truth and reconciliation, address the Calls to Action that apply to health and public health, and explore how one jurisdiction has implemented acts of reconciliation into the workplace.


  • Marcia Anderson, Assistant Professor and Executive Director of Indigenous Academic Affairs, Ongomiizwin Indigenous Institute of Health and Healing, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba
  • Michael Redhead Champagne, Community Organizer
  • Cory Neudorf, Medical Director, Health Surveillance and Reporting, Saskatchewan Health Authority; Professor, Dept of Community Health & Epidemiology, University of Saskatchewan

Population mental wellness

Thursday 30 April     12:30 - 13:30

The WHO defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” A person’s mental wellness lies along a continuum from minimum to maximum mental well-being and is unique from the presence or absence of mental illness. An individual can be mentally well and have a mental illness. An individual’s mental wellness is affected by, among other things, early childhood experiences, the surrounding environment, the social determinants of health, stigma, and racism. From birth to death, individuals (as well as communities and entire populations) go through the ups and downs of life. To survive and thrive individuals and communities draw on their resilience, coping skills and supportive environments to develop, flourish and grow. The mental health status of a person is determined by the capacity of people to look beyond their vulnerabilities, problems and illnesses and move toward health, and speaks of their inner strength, resilience and character. Achieving good mental health is a continuous process of development and transformation through the life course and embraces emotional, psychological and social components. Although holistic considerations of health, which include positive mental health, are recent in Eurocentric worldviews, they have been, and continue to be, central to Indigenous Peoples. The speaker/panelists will explore the opportunities for the public health community to effectively integrate population mental wellness into practice and they will discuss what is needed to support these efforts.


  • Mariette Chartier, Assistant Professor, Department of Community Health Sciences, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba
  • Carol Hopkins, Executive Director, Thunderbird Partnership Foundation