Dr. Heather Castleden

Dr. Heather Castleden
Professor, Impact Chair in Transformative Governance for Planetary Health

PhD (UofA), MEd (UofA), BA (UofM)

Area of expertise

Transformative governance; Planetary health; Decolonizing energy; Decolonizing the academy; Climate change; Climate justice; Climate displacement; Renewable energy; Water; Social justice; Environmental racism; Health equity; Indigenous-Settler Relations; Research ethics; Relationality; Accountability; Indigenous Rights; Critical methods; Anti-colonial; Anti-racist; Participatory methods; Qualitative inquiry; Community-based participatory research

Professional Information and Research

Heather Castleden is a broadly trained community-engaged geographer and educator; she has spent two decades doing participatory research with Indigenous peoples across the country on their priorities that align with her scholarly and applied expertise in environment, health, social justice, and decolonization. Heather’s ancestral roots are mainly Scottish and English. As a white settler scholar, having lived in multiple Indigenous territories and having received teaching from many generous and patient Indigenous Elders and Knowledge-Keepers, Heather is grateful to live and work (as an uninvited guest) in Lkwungen territories. She is deeply appreciative of the spirit of the land and water around her and recognizes that living in this place, and all the other places she has lived across this country, has only been made possible by the settler colonization of her ancestors and other Europeans, and the ongoing (white) settler colonial state of Canada. Given this reality, and her own complicity as a white settler - and as a human geographer - her research primarily focuses on the politics of knowledge production in Indigenous environment, health, and social justice activism. Heather has also developed concentrations in responsible and relational Indigenous research ethics and decolonizing settler colonialism in the academy.

Heather’s PhD in Human Geography is from the University of Alberta (2007). She held two Postdoctoral Fellowships at the University of Victoria, one funded by the Network Environments for Aboriginal Research and one funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Heather began her tenure-track appointment in 2009 at Dalhousie University in the School for Resource and Environmental Studies. She earned tenure and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2013 while at Dalhousie, and in 2014 she joined Queen’s University as an Associate Professor with a joint appointment between the Department of Geography and Planning and the Department of Public Health Sciences. Queen’s University nominated Heather for a Tier II Canada Research Chair (CRC). She received the CRC in 2016, concentrating on ‘Reconciling Relations for Health, Environments, and Communities’; her CRC was renewed earlier this year. She was also awarded a prestigious Fulbright Canada Research Chair in Social Sciences, to be held at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa in the Departments of Geography and Political Sciences. Heather is the Director of the Health, Environments, and Communities Research Lab (heclab.com), a thriving community of trainees and associate researchers. In recognition of her contributions, she was inducted to the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists in 2021 for a 7-year term. 

Heather has over a hundred peer-reviewed and scholarly publications (in high impact journals like The Lancet-Planetary Health, Social Science & Medicine, Environmental Reviews, Health & Place, Energy Research and Social Science, and Antipode) and holds multiple competitive grants from CIHR, SSHRC, and other funding agencies. At the University of Victoria, Heather will be developing the Transformation Lab – in close collaboration with CIRCLE; the Transformation Lab will support the forthcoming activities of the Impact Chair in Transformative Governance for Planetary Health. Heather will also continue her research concerning Indigenous leadership in energy autonomy and decolonizing energy in Canada through A SHARED Future, as well as several other ongoing projects detailed on the HEC Lab’s website. She will be developing new collaborations, research projects, and initiatives that align with the UVIC Strategic Research Plan, particularly concerning sustainability, the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Heather is particularly interested in increased land-based learning opportunities for UVIC students through the co-developing programs with Indigenous knowledge-holders, particularly in Songhees, Esquimalt, and WSÁNEĆ Territories and the broader Coast Salish, Nuu-chah-nulth, and Kwakwakaw’akw Territories.

Heather sits on three Editorial Boards: Social Science & Medicine, Environmental Reviews, and Canadian Geographies. She was a member of the Inaugural Steering Committee for WISER: Women and Inclusivity in Sustainable Energy Research Network, an international network of women academics in the field of clean, low–carbon, and sustainable energy research. Last year, along with three internationally recognized Indigenous scholars, Heather guest-edited a special issue of Global Health Promotion titled ‘Whenua Ora’: Healthy Lands, Healthy Peoples’. Their editorial pointed to the need for a swift paradigmatic shift in health research, one that engages with multiple ways of knowing and was released at the International Union for Health Promotion and Education in Aotearoa/New Zealand to reflect the conference theme: ‘Waiora: Promoting Planetary Health and Sustainable Development for All’, which has set the stage for rolling out the aims of the President’s Impact Chair in Transformative Governance for Planetary Health.

Heather is the proud momma and biggest fan of two amazing young adults, Dylan and Jordan. She is also a fan of students, open minds, critical thinkers, anti-racist education and action, truth and healing, gender equity and diversity, and climate action, as well as sandy beaches, rainforests, prairies, clean water, lemonade, and pecan pie, and she is excited to hear from you if you share any of these interests!

Research Interests

  • Community-based participatory research;
  • Indigenous-settler relations, rights, and responsibilities;
  • Social, environmental, and health equity and justice;
  • Decolonizing the academy;
  • Just transformations for planetary health

Recent (Selected) Publications

Castleden, H. (2023). “Decolonizing Sustainable Energy Policy” in Winfield, M., Hill, S. & Gaede, J. (Eds.) Sustainable Energy Policy in Canada. UBC Press.

Castleden, H., White, I., & Otoadese, J. (2023). What We Heard: Perspectives on Climate Change and Public Health in Canada. Report prepared for the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada.

Sloan Morgan, O., Kennedy, R. Castleden, H. & Huu-ay-aht First Nations (2023). The living nature of a modern treaty: Preparing for the Maa-nulth Treaty’s first period review. BC Studies 216: 41-71).

Johnson L.R., Wilcox A.A.E., Alexander S.M., Bowles E., Castleden H., Henri D.A., Provencher J.F., Orihel D.M. (2023). Weaving Indigenous and western-based ways of knowing in ecotoxicology and wildlife health: A systematic review of Canadian studies. Environmental Reviews.

White, I., & Castleden, H. (2022). Time as an instrument of settler evasion: Circumventing the implementation of truth and reconciliation in Canadian geography departments. The Canadian Geographer, pp. 1-14.

Castleden, H. & Sylvestre, P. (2022). “Participatory geographies: From community-based to community-led research” in Lovell, S. A., Coen, S. E., & Rosenberg, M. W. (Eds.) The Routledge Handbook of Methodologies in Human Geography, Taylor & Francis.

Sylvestre, P., & Castleden, H., (2022). Asinabka in four transformations: How settler colonialism and racial capitalism sutured urbanization in Canada’s capital to the plunder of Algonquin territory. Settler Colonial Studies (Online).

Rose, J., & Castleden, H. (2022). "A serious rift": The Indigenous Health Research Community's refusal of the 2014 CIHR funding reforms and underlying methodological conservatism. The International Indigenous Policy Journal, 13(3), 1-19.

Sylvestre, P., & Castleden, H., (2022). Refusing to Relinquish: How Settler Canada Uses Race, Property, and Jurisdiction to Undermine Urban Indigenous Land Reclamation. Environment & Planning D: Society & Space, Vol. 40 (3): 413-431.

Cullen, C., & Castleden, H. (2022). Two-Eyed Seeing/Etuaptmumk In the Colonial Archive: Reflections on Participatory Archival Research. Area.

Yeung, S., Rosenberg, M., Anand, S., Bannach, D., Mayotte, L., Lac La Ronge Indian Band Health Services, Fort McKay First Nation, & Castleden, H. (2021). Bonding social capital and health within four First Nations communities in Canada: A cross-sectional study. Social Science and Medicine – Population health.

Sanchez-Pimienta, C., Masuda, J., Doucette, M., Lewis, D., Rotz, S., the Native Women’s Association of Canada, Tait Neufeld, H., & Castleden H. (2021). Implementing Indigenous Gender-Based Analysis in Research: Principles, Practices, and Lessons Learned. Environmental Research and Public Health, 18, 11572: 1-17.

Rotz, S., Rose, J., Masuda, Lewis, D., & Castleden H. (2021). Toward intersectional and culturally relevant sex and gender analysis in health research. Social Science & Medicine, 292.

Castleden, H., Lin, J., & Darrach, M. (2021). Public Health Moves to Innocence and Evasion? Graduate Training Programs’ Engagement in Truth and Reconciliation for Indigenous Health. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 113, 211-221.

Ley, M., Martin, D., & Castleden, H. (2021). Student Perspectives on Indigenous Health Content in Pre-Clinical Medical Education. Healthy Populations Journal, Vol. 1(2).

Cullen, C., Castleden, H., & Wien, F. (2021). The Historical Roots of Social Assistance: An Inadequate Response to the Colonial Destruction of Mi'kmaw Livelihood in Nova Scotia. International Indigenous Policy Journal, 12(3). (2021).

Walker, C., Doucette, M., Rotz, S., Lewis, D., Tait Neufeld, H., & Castleden, H. (2021). Non-Indigenous partner perspectives on Indigenous Peoples' involvement In renewable energy: Exploring reconciliation as relationships of accountability or status quo innocence? Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management (March 2021).

Day, L., Cunsolo, A., Castleden, H., Sawatzky, A., Martin, D., Hart, C., Dewey, C., & Harper, S. (2020). "The legacy will be the change": Reconciling how we live with and relate to water. International Indigenous Policy Journal, 11(3): 1-25.

Lewis, D., Castleden, H., Apostle, R., Francis, S., & Strickland, K. (2020). Governmental fiduciary failure in Indigenous environmental health justice: The case of Pictou Landing First Nation. International Journal of Indigenous Health, 15(1).

Yeung, S, Castleden, H., & Pictou Landing First Nation (2020). “we all know each other”: A strengths-based approach to understanding social capital in Pictou Landing First Nation. International Journal of Indigenous Health, 15(1).

Castleden, H., Darrach, M., Lin, J. (2020). The public health emergency of climate change: How/are Canadian postsecondary public health sciences programs responding? Canadian Journal of Public Health Special Issue: Moving on IPCC 1.5 °C: Exploring promising public health research, policy, and practice responses to environmental crisis in a warming world, 111(6), pp. 836-844.

Lewis, D., Castleden, H., Apostle, R. (2020). If only they had accessed the data: Governmental failure to monitor pulp mill impacts on human health in Pictou Landing first Nation. Social Science and Medicine.

Lewis, D., Castleden, H., Apostle, R., Francis, S., & Strickland, K. (2020). Linking Land Displacement and Environmental Dispossession to Mi’kmaw Health and Wellbeing: Culturally Relevant Place-Based Interpretative Frameworks Matter. The Canadian Geographer, 65(1), pp. 66-81.

Hoicka, C., MacArthur, J., Castleden, H., Das. R., Lieu, J. (2020). Forging Canada’s Green New Deal: The social foundations of climate resilient infrastructure. Energy and Social Science Research, 65(1).

Bozkhov, E., Walker, C., McCourt, V., & Castleden, H. (2020). Are the natural sciences ready for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada? Exploring ‘Settler Readiness’ at a world-class freshwater research station. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, 10, pp. 226-241.