U of S Canada Research Chairs to examine Indigenous rights, environmental science

SASKATOON - University of Saskatchewan researchers Dwight Newman, Ingrid Pickering and John Giesy have been awarded Canada Research Chairs (CRC) to further their work in balancing Indigenous rights with responsible resource development, using synchrotron light to understand the health and environmental roles of selenium, and measure the effects of novel chemicals in the environment.

Newman studies Indigenous rights within the context of Canadian and international law, providing insights to guide Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples to mutual agreement. His research has helped bolster numerous legal arguments and has been quoted in dozens of judgments, including three Supreme Court of Canada decisions.

"We're trying to understand how courts, policy makers and all stakeholders can work together to create a framework that enables responsible resource development while respecting Indigenous rights," he said. "Working together, we can find innovative solutions that respect the rights of Indigenous communities while finding win-win outcomes for all."

Newman is awarded $100,000 per year over five years from his Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Rights in Constitutional and International Law.

Geoscientist Pickering uses synchrotron light at facilities such as the Canadian Light Source at the U of S to look at selenium's role in living systems. While the element is an essential nutrient in small quantities, larger doses are toxic. Selenium is common in Saskatchewan soils and is often exposed during mining operations, with associated implications for the environment.

"Selenium may be implicated as a contributor in type 2 diabetes and a possible suppressor in prostate cancer," Pickering said. "These are both open questions we hope to solve. As well, we are looking at selenium's role in the environment, since mining activity can mobilize it, leading to accumulation in top aquatic predators."

Pickering is awarded $200,000 per year over seven years from her Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Molecular Environmental Science, as well as $195,000 in associated Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) equipment funding. Prior to this award, Pickering held a Tier 2 CRC.

Environmental toxicologist Giesy will focus on dynamics and effects of novel chemicals in the environment. His aim is to provide needed information on socially relevant issues to make informed decisions to allow sustainable economic and social empowerment while protecting the health of humans and wildlife. His unique synthesis of theoretical and empirical information and application of state-of-the-art molecular and mass spectrometry will be used to identify, quantify, and assess the risks of natural and synthetic chemicals.

Giesy is awarded $200,000 per year over seven years from his Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Environmental Toxicology. He previously held a Tier I CRC.

"This $3.5-million investment and associated CFI funding recognizes the achievements of two of our outstanding researchers in synchrotron and environmental sciences and one of our rising stars in the area of Aboriginal rights," said U of S Vice-President Research Karen Chad. "Knowledge from their innovative research will guide decisions for fair and responsible resource development that carefully considers the health of both people and the environment."

Funds from CRCs are used for the researchers' salaries and for operating their research programs. The chairs also leverage substantial funding from other sources such as operating funds from the Saskatchewan government and the U of S. These funds in turn provide training opportunities for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.

Greg Rickford, federal Minister of State for Science and Technology, made the announcement of the new Canada Research Chairs today at the University of Calgary.

"Our government remains committed to attracting and retaining the world's best researchers, creating jobs and strengthening our economy," Rickford said. "Through programs such as the Canada Research Chairs, we are supporting cutting-edge research at Canadian universities and fostering innovation by helping researchers bring their ideas to the marketplace, to benefit Canadians and improve our quality of life."

In total, the federal government will provide $108.9 million for 135 newly awarded and renewed Canada Research Chairs at 41 institutions across the country, as well as $6.4 million in associated CFI funding.


For more information, contact:

Jennifer Thoma

Media Relations

University of Saskatchewan


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