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Incentives for health

Queen’s Health Policy Council to examine state of preventative medicine in Canada.

Incentives for Health icon

Members of the Queen’s University Health Policy Council (QHPC) will soon gather at the Queen’s School of Policy Studies to discuss how Canada’s medical system increasingly rewards healthcare providers for services to treat illness or injury, at the expense of better-quality preventative medicine.

On Tuesday, Nov. 20, the QHPC will host Queen’s students, academics, and healthcare professionals at Incentives for Health – a series of panel discussions and keynote talks examining this and related issues, including the future of funding, hospital-based care, and health maintenance.

“Evidence suggests that 75 per cent of population health is attributable to social determinants like education, personal and financial security, employment and working conditions, healthy child development, gender, and culture,” says David Walker, Executive Director of the Queen’s School of Policy Studies and QHPC member. “Yet, most of the available funding is directed into healthcare services tailored toward treatment. We want to explore this imbalance and how changes to incentives could affect healthcare productivity, and ultimately improve the health of Canadians.”

Dr. Walker is set to open the day’s discussions with an introduction of the QHPC, its members, and its purpose. Formed in 2016 by several individuals at, or closely associated with, Queen’s, the council set out to discuss, develop, and disseminate useful policy options to both decision-makers and students of health policy.

“The QHPC is a multidisciplinary group that includes many of Canada’s top health policy and medical minds,” says Dr. Walker. “Its breadth of expertise encompasses everything from economics and public health, to emergency and family medicine, veteran’s health, government policy, health administration, and more, well-positioning us to offer comprehensive reviews and recommendations on issues affecting the Canadian healthcare system.”

Numerous Queen’s experts sit on the QHPC with Dr. Walker, including:

  • Don Drummond (Policy Studies)
  • Ian Gilron (Biomedical & Molecular Sciences)
  • Michael Green (Family Medicine)
  • Kieran Moore (Family Medicine; KFLA Medical Officer of Health)
  • John Muscedere (Critical Care Medicine; President, Canadian Frailty Network)
  • David Pedlar (Rehabilitation Therapy)
  • Richard Reznick (Dean, Health Sciences)
  • Chris Simpson (Vice-Dean, Medicine)
  • Duncan Sinclair (Dean emeritus, Faculty of Arts and Science, Medicine)
  • Ruth Wilson (Family Medicine)

The council also includes representatives from medical organizations, government funding agencies, public health organizations and others. Many QHPC members have contributed significantly to health policy development, with far-reaching impacts on health services restructuring, primary care reform, provincial healthcare strategy, and medical leadership.

“Health reform in Canada is an intricate task with a lot of moving parts,” says Dr. Walker. “Through collaborations like the QHPC, we can create a visible and respected forum for health policy discussion, and seek to advance our knowledge, learning, and implementation of strategies that will continue to improve the overall health of our communities.”

You can learn more about the QHPC’s work by visiting the website, and about some of their policy positions on the Queen’s Policy Blog.

Update (10 am, Nov. 19, 2018): Registration for Incentives for Health is now closed, as all seats have been filled.

The Conversation: How the opioid crisis is disrupting hospital care

Canadian hospitals are ill-equipped to deal with the inpatient opioid crisis. Lack of specialist addictions care puts patients and staff at risk.

New York Ambulances
Few medical schools offer training in addictions medicine and most doctors feel they lack the specialist expertise to deal with the inpatient opioid crisis. (Photo by Benjamin Voros/Unsplash)


“… there is always soma, delicious soma, half a gramme for a half-holiday, a gramme for a week-end, two grammes for a trip to the gorgeous East, three for a dark eternity on the moon…”

In Aldous Huxley’s 1932 novel Brave New World, citizens are trapped in a chemically induced state of docility and compliance. Their fictional drug of choice: Soma. Throughout North America and in some parts of Europe today, people are rendered into a diminished state (and killed) by an all too real version of soma: Opioids.

The misuse of these powerful narcotics is leading to an epidemic of addiction and death. As doctors and researchers, we want to highlight an often overlooked face of this epidemic — its emergence as a major disruptor within Canada’s hospitals.

Images of paramedics resuscitating people who have overdosed on the street are common within the news media. But the face of the inpatient opioid crisis is equally sinister and must be addressed simultaneously.

Some hospitalized patients are engaging in extreme behaviours — violence toward staff and other patients, theft and other antisocial actions — that disrupt the care of others and put patients and staff at risk.

We are initiating a program at the Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) called START (The Substance Treatment and Rehabilitation Team). Programs like START can perhaps better handle the inpatient crisis using a dedicated multidisciplinary team of practitioners.

Specialists from addictions, family, emergency and internal medicine, along with those from psychiatry, anaesthesia, social work, public health and nursing, work together — to competently manage care of patients with substance abuse disorders and coordinate care with outpatient services.

A growing epidemic

Let’s start with one person’s story. Crystal was a 29-year old patient who was frequently admitted to hospital due to her diabetes and its complications (kidney failure, blindness). She was prescribed opiates to relieve her pain but over time became dependent on them.

Crystal required dialysis and had multiple bouts of sepsis, a serious full-body infection. Her pain was poorly controlled and we believe she lost hope. She was found dead in her hospital bed after self-administering a lethal dose of narcotics.

Unfortunately this story is not unique or even unusual anymore. Opioids are responsible for one in six deaths of young adults aged 24 to 35 in Ontario. Almost 4,000 people died in Canada in 2017 from opioid-related causes. And in the United States, accidental overdoses now claim more lives than car crashes.

Despite public attention, this number continues to grow. The problem is prevalent across the country. Rural and mid-size communities are affected as well as big cities like Vancouver and Toronto.

Patients create a street supply

The causes are complex but doctors over-prescribing opiates and the emergence of new potent forms of “street” opiates have contributed to the crisis. Drugs laced with the potent opioid fentanyl, smuggled from China, often cause sudden death due to a complete cessation of breathing.

Over-prescription of opioids by doctors fuels addictions in people that drives them to use these dangerous street drugs. Diversion of prescription drugs and theft or misappropriation of drugs from pharmacies creates a supply of narcotics on the street. More than half a million prescription drugs, mostly opioids, are stolen from pharmacies each year.

Within hospitals, patients addicted to substances — notably but not exclusively opioids — are often involved in this drug theft and diversion. Diversion means they move their own prescription narcotics prescribed to the street, often selling them right on hospital grounds.

It’s estimated that one third of all opioids on Canada’s streets result from diversion of prescription drugs. Greed allows these diverted drugs to be laced with fentanyl (which is cheap and powerful) by criminals, and people are dying.

While many patients who come to hospital are addicted, health-care providers feel inadequately trained to deal with them. Indeed the medical profession has been slow to recognize that there is a direct relationship between our rate of opioid prescriptions and mortality, even after adjusting for predictors of adverse outcomes, such as age.

The overuse of prescription narcotics is not accidental but reflects cynical marketing by certain pharmaceutical companies, notably Purdue Pharma, that claimed potent opioids like oxycontin were “less addictive.”

Canadian doctors have been slow to recognize this sinister side of pharmaceutical hype.

Addictions specialists are needed

Treating patients’ complications from their addictions, while neglecting the root of their problems, is frustrating for clinicians and often feels futile.

At the Kingston Health Sciences Centre, we address this issue by working with community partners such as Street Health to offer education and support to staff so they can better understand patients who suffer from addictions. KHSC is also looking at ways to provide additional funding and a more coordinated approach to address addictions.

The START team recently surveyed our hospital’s doctors and health-care professionals. For one month they collected reports of inpatient encounters where a substance-use problem was suspected (124 unique patients).

In 87 per cent of the reported cases, the physician felt managing the addiction was not within their scope of practice. In 98 per cent of cases, they felt the patient would benefit from an addictions specialist consultation.

Further complicating matters is that few medical schools offer training in addictions medicine, leaving a significant unmet societal need.

START’s goals include facilitating transitions of care from inpatient to outpatient, connecting patients with community treatment programs, providing specialized and consistent inpatient care plans including pain and withdrawal management, methadone or buprenorphine/naloxone treatment when appropriate and educating hospital staff and medical students.

These are all missing pieces from our current response to the unfolding crisis.

What has happened since Crystal’s death? At least two more patients have died from accidental overdoses in our hospital.The Conversation


This column was written by Stephen Archer, Professor, Head of Department of Medicine; Chris Smith, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division Head, General Internal Medicine, and Raistlin Majere, General Internal Medicine Physician, Queen's University

This article was originally published on The Conversation, which provides news and views from the academic and research community. Queen’s University is a founding partner. Queen's researchers, faculty, and students are regular contributors.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca

Igniting curiosity

First edition of the IGnite: Inspiring Generations through Research short talk series launches Nov. 15 at The Isabel.

First edition of the IGnite: Inspiring Generations through Research short talk series launches Nov. 15 at The Isabel.

The IGnite series will demonstrate that you do not need a PhD to understand a lecture on particle astrophysics. As part of an exciting new research promotion initiative, two Queen’s researchers from completely different fields will discuss, in one hour, some of the universe’s deepest mysteries and greatest miracles.

The IGnite: Inspiring Generations through Research series is a collaboration between the Arthur B. McDonald Canadian Astroparticle Physics Research Institute and the Office of Vice-Principal (University Relations) at Queen’s. While each event will feature two researchers from different fields discussing their projects and research experiences, events will also include interactive demonstrations and poster presentations from students and additional researchers.

Promising fun with an academic twist, the lecture series will launch Thursday, Nov. 15 at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts.

Assistant Professor Ken Clark (Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy)

IGnite aims to showcase the diversity of research happening across campus at Queen’s and beyond,” says Michael Fraser, Vice-Principal (University Relations). “It also offers an opportunity for researchers to actively communicate and share their innovative and ground-breaking work with the public.”

At the inaugural event, Jacalyn Duffin, Professor Emerita (School of Medicine, Faculty of Education, Departments of Philosophy and History), will explore the history of medical miracles, including her role in the canonization of the first Canadian-born saint. Dr. Duffin is the former holder of the Hannah Chair in the History of Medicine and is both a hematologist and a historian, and will be inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 2019.

The second speaker, Ken Clark (Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy), will explore the mysteries of dark matter and neutrinos, highlighting his work at SNOLAB in Sudbury and IceCube in Antarctica. Dr. Clark is an assistant professor of particle astrophysics, collaborating closely on experimental projects such as PICO, which uses bubble chambers to search for galactic dark matter.

Professor Emerita Jacalyn Duffin (School of Medicine, Faculty of Education, Departments of Philosophy and History)

Both researchers’ projects reveal aspects of our world that few people ever directly encounter. Dr. Duffin will incorporate insights from her time researching in the Vatican Secret Archives, while Dr. Clark will explain that in order to understand some of the world’s smallest particles, called neutrinos, he has had to travel to some of the deepest and remotest locations on Earth. 

“Research only works by making their results known, not just to other scientists but also to the public. So, it is imperative that we share our findings with those whom support us,” says Tony Noble, Scientific Director of the McDonald Institute. “But more importantly, these public events give researchers an opportunity to inspire future researchers and future policy-makers, and illustrate the importance of research and fundamental science in impacting everyday lives.”

The first event (one of a three-part series for the 2018-2019 academic year) is Thursday, Nov. 15, 7-9:30 pm, at The Isabel. Registration is free on Eventbrite and light refreshments will be served.

For more information on the series, see the McDonald Institute’s website.  

Queen’s Research Opportunities Funds competition now open

The next Queen’s Research Opportunities Funds (QROF) competition has been launched. Open to Queen’s researchers and scholars, the QROF provides funding to accelerate their programs and achieve research goals, and offers opportunities to leverage external funding to build on areas of institutional research strength.

“The QROF represents our most significant internal investment in supporting research excellence at Queen’s,” says Kimberly Woodhouse, Interim Vice-Principal (Research). “Since its inception, QROF has supported a broad range of projects, spanning all disciplines, and also enables our researchers and scholars to expand external partnerships.”

The QROF is comprised of four funds:

  • The Research Leaders’ Fund – for strategic institutional commitments to aspirational research in support of the university’s research strengths and priorities
  • The International Fund – to assist in augmenting the university’s international reputation through increased global engagement
  • The Arts Fund – designed to support artists and their contributions to the scholarly community and to advancing Queen’s University
  • The Post-Doctoral Fund – to both attract outstanding post-doctoral fellows to Queen’s and to support their contributions to research and to the university.

Letters of intent are now being accepted for the Research Leaders’ and International Funds (deadline Saturday, Dec. 15), and successful candidates will be invited to submit full applications. Application forms are also available for those interested in applying to the Arts (deadline Friday, March 1) and Post-Doctoral (deadline Wednesday, Jan. 30) funds. Information on each of the funds and the application process can be found on the Vice-Principal (Research) website. For more information, email ferrism@queensu.ca.

In the 2017-18 competition, 17 Queen’s faculty members received funding under the QROF program, which were previously highlighted in the Gazette.

A dangerous trend

Research from Queen’s University shows major traumatic injury increases risk of mental health disorders, including suicide.

A new study headed by Queen’s University researcher Dr. Chris Evans has revealed people who experience major injuries requiring hospitalization, such as those caused by car crashes and falls, have a much higher risk of being admitted to hospital for mental health disorders. Results showed that this group is at a higher risk of suicide as well.

The study was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), and supported by data from the Institute of Clinical Evaluative Sciences Queen’s.

“Major trauma was associated with a 40 per cent increased rate of hospital admission for one or more mental health diagnoses,” says Dr. Evans (Emergency Medicine). “The most common mental health diagnoses were alcohol abuse, other drug abuse disorders, and major depressive disorders.”

According to Dr. Evans, there is a lack of evidence on the link between major injury and later mental health issues. This large study, based on more than 19,000 patients in Ontario, contributes to the literature on this important topic. The majority of participants who had experienced major trauma were male (70.7 per cent), lived in urban areas (82.6 per cent), and had accidental injuries (89 per cent) rather than intentional.

These factors along with low socioeconomic status, location, and surgical treatment for these injuries were associated with higher admissions for mental health issues. Researchers found that children and youth under 18 years of age had the largest increase in admissions for one or more mental health issues after injury. Suicide is also higher in people with major physical injury, with 70 suicides per 100,000 patients per year.

“Patients who suffer major injuries are at significant risk of increased admissions to hospital with mental health diagnoses in the years after their injury and also have high suicide rates during this period,” says Dr. Evans.

The authors urge that mental health supports should be offered to all trauma victims, with special attention to high-risk patients, including children and youth.

Queen’s University researcher Dallas Seitz (Psychiatry) was a co-author on the paper.

For more information visit the CMAJ website.

Research on the brain

Hand-held scanner shows promise for better approaches to brain bleeds in the elderly.

For frail and elderly individuals, brain bleeds caused by falling are a major health risk. For some, there’s also a risk of misdiagnosis, because the symptoms of a brain bleed (most commonly a subdural hematoma) can be mistaken for age-related conditions such as dementia, neurological disease or medication effects.

Currently, primary care doctors diagnose this traumatic head injury with a CT scan. But not all hospitals have this equipment, so patients must travel to larger health centres, making diagnosis, treatment, and followup difficult, expensive, and time-consuming. For elderly patients with dementia, this process can also be disorienting and frightening.

Dr. D.J. Cook
Queen's University's DJ Cook is testing a new tool that can detect brain bleeds. Photo credit - Kingston Health Sciences Centre

“Imagine if your family doctor or local clinic had a simple, fast way to identify and monitor this kind of injury,” says D.J. Cook, an assistant professor in the Department of Surgery at Queen’s University and a neurosurgeon at Kingston Health Sciences Centre.

Now Dr. Cook and a team at KHSC, Providence Care, and Queen’s University are working to make that happen. They’ve partnered with ArcheOptix, a Kingston medical device company, to test the capabilities of a hand-held scanner to rapidly detect bleeding in the brain.

“It’s a very simple, non-invasive imaging tool. You pass it over the head, and it can instantly detect brain bleeds within three centimeters of the surface,” says Dr. Cook.

The portable, radiation-free device helps doctors more quickly detect the presence and severity of bleeding, ensuring patients receive care more quickly. For some patients, it could also reduce the need for repeated CT imaging (and radiation exposure), which currently is a routine part of follow-up care, Dr. Cook says.

Approved for use by Health Canada earlier this year, the NIRD™ Hematoma Detector uses near-infrared spectroscopy to locate and image brain bleeds, and is currently being used in trials in the U.S.

“Our region has a disproportionate number of patients who are elderly and frail or living with other chronic conditions, I thought it would be relevant to conduct this research with the device right here in Kingston,” Dr. Cook says.

With funding from the Ontario Centres of Excellence and the Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation, Dr. Cook is now leading two studies into brain bleeds in this population.

In the first study, titled Better Care Closer to Home, doctors will use the device to track two groups of elderly patients.

“Some have had surgery and require post-operative follow up, and others with smaller bleeds are simply being observed to see whether bleeding will increase or dissipate. Right now there is no way to do this except by CT scan,” Dr. Cook says.

“Our neurosurgery catchment lies over an enormous geographical area, encompassing 14 emergency rooms, of which only six have 24-hour access to CT, so patients who need more specialized care have to travel to larger centres like Kingston or Belleville,” Dr. Cook says. “We want to see if this non-invasive test can be used by primary care physicians to track patients’ progress after a bleed, ultimately avoiding extra trips for patients.”

The study will target 50 patients and will deploy an imager in each of Kingston Health Sciences Centre and Providence Care, with three units floating among patient care offices in areas with follow-up imaging. 

The second study, funded by the Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation, and in collaboration with Dallas Seitz, Associate Professor and clinician scientist in Geriatric Psychiatry at Queen’s and Providence Care, will screen 30 patients with early and late-stage dementia, with a previous head injury from falling.  

“Over the last five years I’ve seen patients who were thought to have dementia but we later found out through a CT scan or a neurological deficit that they had chronic bleeds, and when we treat the bleed, some of these patients get better,” Dr. Cook says.

His vision is to have family doctors and health care providers in remote areas trained to use the tool, enabling them to do the imaging right in the office, and referring those with positive results for CT scans.

“It leads to more timely care, and gives patients the benefit of follow-up care closer to home,” he says.

The studies are underway and expected to be completed in the spring and summer of 2019.

Queen’s earns a top spot for research income growth

Queen’s research income and research intensity are on the rise, according to RE$EARCH Infosource rankings.

Grant Hall
At the centre of Queen's campus, Grant Hall features a building skin highlighting research at the university. (University Communications)

Queen’s University is first in research income growth (medical category) according to national research rankings, recently released by RE$EARCH Infosource, a research and development intelligence company.

In the 2017 fiscal year, the university’s sponsored research income grew to $207 million, an increase of 36.4 per cent from the previous year and enough to move Queen’s into the leading spot for growth in the medical category.

Queen’s also gained ground in terms of research intensity, which measures research income per full-time faculty member. The university placed fifth in Canada, up from 11th in 2016 and sixth in 2015. RE$EARCH Infosource also released its “Canada’s Top 50 Research Universities” ranking for 2018, which uses measures of research inputs, outputs and impact. This ranking saw Queen’s move from 14th to 11th nationally.

RE$EARCH Infosource rankings are highly visible in the R&D sector. Although standings may fluctuate from year-to-year, overall, we have remained within the top institutions nationwide. The positive results this year reinforce Queen’s prominence and success in research,” says Kimberly Woodhouse, Interim Vice-Principal (Research).

Research income – the total funds to support research received in the form of a grant, contribution or contract from all sources external to the institution
Research intensity – a calculation of total research income per full-time faculty member

Queen’s research is a catalyst for discovery, collaboration and tackling the world’s greatest challenges. The university is home to more than 40 Canada Research Chairs, a Canada 150 Research Chair, a Canada Excellence in Research Chair, and over 85 Fellows of the Royal Society of Canada. In 2018, the university celebrated the launch of the Arthur B. McDonald Astroparticle Physics Research Institute, made possible by a $63.7 million award from the Canada First Excellence Research Fund. Queen’s researchers are among the most eminent winners of national and international research awards, recognizing output and measured impact.

“A member of the U15, Queen’s has a history of garnering competitive external support and awards for research that shapes our knowledge and addresses societal challenges,” says Daniel Woolf, Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “As a mid-sized Canadian university, Queen’s continues to demonstrate its impressive strength in this space.”

Canada’s Top 50 Research Universities List 2018 ranks universities based on their total sponsored research income. This include all funds received in the form of a grant, contribution and contract from all sources external to the institution to support research.

For more information, visit the RE$EARCH Infosource website

RE$EARC Infosource - Queen's Ad
Queen’s promotional piece RE$EARCH Infosource supplement features “Unspooling Vermeer,” submitted by Stephanie Dickey (Art History and Art Conservation) as part of the 2018 Art of Research photo contest.


The Conversation: Soot-filled rivers show need for national wildfire strategy

[Soot-filled river]
Black water cascaded down Cameron Falls in Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta after a 2018 wildfire denuded the landscape. (Photo by Kaleigh Watson)

During the record-breaking 2018 fire season, the typically clear waters of Cameron Falls in Waterton Lakes National Park in southern Alberta flowed black. But it had nothing to do with the extensive fires that torched much of British Columbia and a small part of Waterton.

The carbon came from the remnants of another wildfire that had raced 26 km — from one end of the park to the other — in less than eight hours the year before. Heavy rain from a violent thunderstorm in July 2018 flushed the ash, soot and blackened debris that lay on the forest floor into the Cameron River.

Waterton officials, concerned about the impact of the fire on drinking water and the river’s aquatic species, brought in University of Alberta forest hydrologist Uldis Silins to monitor water quality in the park over the coming years.

I was fortunate to spend some time in the field with Silins in Waterton and in the Castle Crown Wilderness, where the water quality has still not fully recovered from the 2003 Lost Creek fire in Alberta’s Crowsnest Pass.

What I learned from those trips and from several others that I recently made to fire-scarred watersheds in British Columbia, Alberta, California, Montana and elsewhere is that wildfire’s impact on water quality is just as sobering as its impact on public safety, air quality and the forest industry.

What we don’t know — and what we’re not prepared for — is frightening and underscores yet again the need for a multi-disciplinary national wildfire strategy that involves the federal government, the provinces and municipalities, universities, First Nations and the business community.

Charred watersheds

Fire often removes a lot of trees in a watershed. The soils in these denuded landscapes can bake in the hot, drought conditions that sometimes follow a fire as it did in Colorado in 2002 following the Hayman Fire, one of the biggest to burn in the state up until that time. Some spring-fed streams stop flowing, and the soils can become impenetrable to water.

Fire can vaporize chemicals in the trees and drive them into the soil. As they condense, they form an impervious layer just below the surface. Hydrophobic is the word that geologists use to describe such soils.

Without trees, vegetation and a stable soil structure to absorb the heavy rains that may follow a fire, tonnes of ash, debris, heavy metals, sediments and nutrients are flushed through the watershed.

Periodic flushes of this wildfire-generated material can overwhelm fish and aquatic life. It took a decade for the world-class South Platte trout fishery to recover from the effects of the 2002 Hayman fire in Colorado. It may be happening now to some salmon spawning streams in B.C.

These flushes of wildfire-generated carbon, sediment and nutrients can also overwhelm water treatment facilities.

That’s what happened in Fort McMurray following the 2016 Horse River fire. The town has spent more than $2.5 million dredging its raw and untreated water storage reservoirs to decrease the risks associated with post-fire algal blooms that are more likely after severe wildfire.

According to Monica Emelko, a University of Waterloo engineer who works with Silins on various fire-related research projects, including one related to Fort McMurray, these blooms have the potential to lead to service disruptions, especially if they produce toxins.

Water alert

It could have been a lot worse.

In the past 16 years, fires have denuded the landscapes around the watersheds serving Denver and Fort Collins, in Colorado, and Canberra and Melbourne, in Australia.

The 300,000 people living in Fort Collins were prohibited from drawing on their traditional water supply for more than three months. Denver spent US$26 million hiring 60 scientists and planting 175,000 trees to deal with its water problem. Canberra was forced to build a new water treatment plant.

This should be a wake-up call for the federal government, the provinces and municipalities, which are responsible for the quality of the water in national and provincial parks, towns and cities and on First Nations reserves.

Most of the country depends on water that is stored and filtered in forests. Some provinces, such as British Columbia, draw as much as 80 per cent of their water from forested watersheds. In many places, the quality of that water is already being degraded by drought, pollution, climate change, agriculture and urban development.

Groundwater may be keeping the surface water cool and clean in places where burned watersheds are now more exposed to the warming effects of the sun, such as in Lost Creek and, hopefully, in Waterton National Park. But we don’t know how long this may last, because we have not adequately mapped out, evaluated and diligently protected our underground aquifers. Instead, we’re selling groundwater at rock bottom prices to companies like Nestle.

Rivers under stress

Wildfire isn’t all bad for watersheds. It can add food to nutrient-deprived rivers and lakes, and transport the sediments that salmon and trout need to build their nests.

But the prospects of more fires burning bigger and more often is bound to further degrade water flowing in and out of our forests. Investing in water treatment facilities and training people to run them, as the federal government promises to in First Nations communities, is only part of the answer.

It’s time to connect the dots. There are 25 major watersheds in Canada. We know little about their flow, the fish and aquatic life that dwell in them because there is, as the World Wildlife Fund recently pointed out in a comprehensive report, no centralized or systematic method in place to monitor them.

What we do know about highly stressed rivers is that they are losing water too fast. The rivers in the South Saskatchewan watershed, for example, won’t have enough water in them by 2030 to supply the needs for more than half of the communities in the region without significant conservation measures. We are increasingly seeing the threat of serious water shortages in many other parts of the country.

How can bad could it get?

Sometime soon, we’re going to have another severe, cross-country drought like the one that started in 1999 and ended in 2004. I described the impacts in a report for the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy.

At the height of the drought, thirty-two massive dust storms swept across the prairies. Forest fires ignited at five times the ten-year average. Thousands of prairie ponds (or sloughs as they are called in the west) dried up, and tens of thousands of waterfowl were unable to find suitable wetlands in which to nest.

During the summer of 2001, irrigation districts in southern Alberta were literally put on rations. On average, they were allocated only 60 per cent of the water they traditionally received.

The 2001 and 2002 droughts dried up virtually every part of the country. Vancouver recorded its second-lowest amount of rainfall and snowfall since its earliest days of record-keeping in 1900, and Canada’s west coast hit a 101-year low. Atlantic Canada had its third-driest summer ever.

For the first time in a quarter century, farmers across Canada reported negative or zero net-farm incomes. Over 41,000 jobs were lost. The GDP took a $5.8 billion hit.

David Phillips, Canada’s most famous climatologist, described the drought as “un-Canadian,” because the weather that produced it was almost tropical.

When another drought like that settles in, there will be less water in our watersheds, more mountain pine beetle killed trees to burn and quite possibly more intense fires because there will be higher temperatures brought on by climate change.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) recently recognized the challenges that lay ahead when it announced funding for the “forWater Network,” which connects 24 researchers and nine universities across Canada to focus on technologies that will enhance water protections. What NSERC has not done thus far is make wildfire science a research priority.

There is a road map to the future that is slowly working its way through the bureaucratic process in the federal government. While it is short on details, the blueprint makes the business case for investing more in wildfire science.

The take-home message for the decision makers who will consider it, if it climbs far enough up the ladder, is that we are not prepared for the future of wildfire in this country. Unless something significant is done soon, we will see more evacuations, more denuded watersheds and more rivers running black.


Edward Struzik is a fellow at the Queen's Institute for Energy and Environmental Policy, School of Policy Studies. He is the author of Firestorm, How Wildfire Will Shape Our FutureThe Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Queen’s chemist garners international honour

Cathleen Crudden becomes third Queen’s faculty member to win American Chemical Society award.

Cathleen Crudden headshot
Cathleen Crudden (Chemistry)  has been named the winner of the 2019 Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award in celebration of her outstanding achievements in the field of organic chemistry.

Cathleen Crudden, a professor and researcher in the Department of Chemistry, has been named the winner of the 2019 Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award in celebration of her outstanding achievements in the field of organic chemistry. This recognition of Dr. Crudden’s contributions is especially remarkable, as she is one of only a handful of Canadians to be chosen for this honour in the award’s 32-year history, and the third Queen’s faculty member to win after Andrew Evans in 2017 and Victor Snieckus in 2001.   

“I am grateful for the work from my lab to be recognized by the American Chemical Society with an Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award,” says Dr. Crudden. “It is an honour to have your career recognized in this way, and I hope that it inspires my students at Queen’s and chemistry students across Canada to know that they can make an international impact in this exciting discipline.” 

Dr. Crudden is widely known for innovations in the development of organic chemistry approaches to the preparation of molecules of interest to the pharmaceutical industry. Specifically, her work on the preparation of “chiral” organic compounds using Suzuki-Miyaura cross–coupling chemistry has been lauded as inspirational and revolutionary by researchers in the field.  

In 2014, work from her research group in the field of carbon-based monolayers on metal surfaces garnered international recognition from diverse fields including chemistry, physics, biology, materials engineering and chemical engineering. The outcomes of this work have applications in the medical, automotive, and electronics industries. Experts described this work as “game changing,” “elegant” and “the new gold standard.” 

“Dr. Crudden has been ahead of her time in two distinct areas – stereospecific sp3–sp2 cross-couplings and the use of N-heterocyclic carbenes for surface modification. She has just the right combination of deep understanding of chemical reactivity and appreciation for challenging problems in broader areas of science,” says Jeff Bode, a professor of organic chemistry and head of the Bode Research Group at ETH Zürich in Switzerland. “Nowadays, many groups work on sp3–sp2 cross-couplings, and it was early work from Cathy that really convinced the field that this could be a viable approach to the construction of challenging carbon–carbon bonds.” 

Dr. Crudden has published over 100 papers, many of which have appeared in the highest impact journals in the field, and has won many awards for her innovation and the practical contributions to her field. She is a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair, holds the R.U. Lemieux Award from the Chemical Institute of Canada, and the Carol Tyler Award from the International Precious Metals Institute.  Previously, she has been a Killam Research Fellow, has won the Clara Benson Award, and an NSERC Accelerator Award, among many others. She has also performed leadership roles within Queen’s and nationally, as Principal Investigator of CFI Innovation Fund grants and NSERC CREATE grants, and served as President of the Canadian Society for Chemistry and Chair of the Manufacturing and Strategic Grant panel at NSERC. She is currently the Chair of the NSERC-Chemistry Liaison Committee, which brings a voice of the national chemistry community to the attention of the federal STEM granting agency.  

“Dr. Crudden’s research has pushed the boundaries of organic chemistry, garnering the attention of academics and industry professionals across the globe,” says Kimberly Woodhouse, Queen's Vice-Principal (Research). “My sincere congratulations to her on winning this prestigious honour.” 

Learn more about the Arthur C. Cope Scholar Awards.

Queen’s Prison Law Clinic’s Supreme Court appearance a ‘return to roots’

[Paul Quick, QPLC]
 Paul Quick (Law’09), is a staff lawyer at the Queen's Prison Law Clinic who serves as its litigation counsel. (University Communications)

A decision by the Supreme Court of Canada to grant the Queen’s Prison Law Clinic (QPLC) leave to intervene in two appeals this fall is being hailed as an important step forward for the clinic in its efforts to advance prisoner rights.

In many ways, it’s “a return to the QPLC’s roots,” says Paul Quick (Law’09), a staff lawyer at the clinic who serves as its litigation counsel. “The clinic has been representing prisoners and advancing prisoners’ rights in the courts and before tribunals for over 40 years, and that gives us an important perspective and particular expertise in these issues.”

The clinic has sharpened its focus on applications for judicial review to Federal Court since Quick joined the QPLC staff in 2016. He says doing so was a “natural starting point” for building the QPLC’s litigation capacity and expertise.

Having thus far achieved exemplary success in these efforts, the clinic is ramping up its activities, taking on a wider variety of prisoners’ rights issues and placing greater emphasis on human rights and constitutional issues and remedies, as well as appellate-level interventions. It was with those goals in mind that Quick and faculty advisor Lisa Kerr reached out to top-notch external counsel who agreed to assist the clinic pro bono in seeking leave to intervene at the Supreme Court in Chinna v Canada and in the hearing of three related cases, known as “the standard-of-review trilogy.” 

Both matters deal with fundamental questions that promise to have long-term effects on Canadian law. The former – to be heard on Nov. 14 – involves the scope of the constitutional right of access to habeas corpus, while standard-of-review trilogy – to be heard over three days in early December – concerns the framework for the substantive review of administrative decisions by the courts. 

Pro-bono counsel will represent the QPLC at the hearings. 

Nader Hasan of Stockwoods LLP will be lead counsel representing QPLC with Quick in the Chinna matter, while Brendan Van Niejenhuis, also of Stockwoods LLP, will represent QPLC in the standard-of-review trilogy. Quick notes that the clinic is “very grateful for their excellent work in both cases.”

The QPLC is instructing counsel on the arguments to be made, and students have conducted extensive research to support the development of those instructions and the proposed legal arguments.

“This exciting SCC litigation is being assisted by QPLC’s Advanced Prison Law pilot course,” says QPLC Director Kathryn Ferreira( Law’01). “In Law 419, four upper-year students with a required clinical background gain intensive experience assisting with court litigation matters and in helping to develop the legal strategy and evidentiary records for potential test cases.”

The Advanced Prison Law pilot course is unique in Canada. “It’s the QPLC’s hope that it will become a regular offering,” Quick says.

The inaugural class includes four students. David Reznikov (Law’19), who’s one of them, lauds the small class size. 

“It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to work closely with a staff lawyer who serves as a mentor while you’re gaining hands-on legal experience, appearing before panels and tribunals, and interacting with inmate clients, many of whom wouldn’t otherwise receive legal counsel,” says Reznikov. “I chose Queen’s Law because of its strong clinical programs, and I haven’t been disappointed. There’s no question that being involved with QPLC has been the highlight of my Queen’s Law experience. And these two Supreme Court appeals are excellent examples of the meaningful impact the clinic is having.”

*This article was first published on the Faculty of Law website


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