Centre for Indigenous Peoples' Nutrition and Environment (CINE)

The Centre for Indigenous Peoples' Nutrition and Environment (CINE) is a multi-disciplinary research and education centre created in 1992 through the collaboration of founding director Professor Harriet Kuhnlein, former Director of the School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition (now the School of Human Nutrition), and leaders of major Canadian aboriginal organizations, territorial and federal governments, and McGill University. CINE is located within the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences on McGill University's Macdonald Campus in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec. CINE’s mission is to collaborate with indigenous and local communities in research and education related to food systems and ecological health. CINE’s goal is to enhance the quality of life of indigenous and local communities, across Canada and around the world, by advancing understanding of both natural and human-generated environmental impacts on food systems.

CINE-based research continues to operate under the guidance and approval of a governing board currently composed of representatives of i) CINE’s host community, the Mohawk Council of Kahnáwake, ii) three regional indigenous organizations spanning northern Canada, Council of Yukon First Nations, Dene Nation, and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, and iii) the Inuit Circumpolar Council.  

Recently completed projects  include:

  • A Global Health Research initiative funded by Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) involving 12 cultures of Indigenous Peoples in different parts of the world that has led to the publication of 2 books.
  • An Adult Inuit Health Survey, funded by Government of Canada’s International Polar Year Program, providing the first comprehensive look at the health of Inuit in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, Nunavut and Nunatsaivut. Titled Qanuqitpit? Qanuippitali? Kanuivit?” "How about us? How are we?", the mission of the research is to improve health care planning, personal health and community wellness for Inuit in each of the three regions by conducting a comprehensive and long-term health and wellness survey.  
  • A project focused on Environmental Change and Traditional Use of the Old Crow Flats in Northern Canada, funded by Govt. of Canada’s International Polar Year Program, led by the Vuntut Gwitchin of Old Crow. The research objectives are to document the history of environmental change in Old Crow Flats, to determine the impact of recent and anticipated climate change on the wildlife of the Old Crow Flats, and to enhance the resiliency of Vuntut Gwitchin health and culture to such change. The research integrates traditional and scientific approaches, and will create a legacy of understanding and direct action to manage the response to future climate-driven effects.

CINE website: www.mcgill.ca/cine


Murray Humphries (Academic Director), an Associate Professor and NSERC Northern Research Chair in McGill’s Department of Natural Resource Sciences of McGill University. Murray maintains an active northern research program focused on wildlife biology and community use of wildlife species, with study sites in northern Quebec, Nunavut and Yukon. He is significantly involved in a north Yukon IPY project led by the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, a SSHRC community-university research alliance project focused on culturally appropriate protected areas with the Cree Nation of Wemindji, Quebec, and McGill’s research contributions to Quebec’s Plan Nord. He studies the impacts of environmental change on wildlife and human populations and the linkages between traditional and scientific knowledge.

Harriet Kuhnlein (Founding Director), Emeritus Professor in McGill’s School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition. Harriet received her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and holds an honorary doctor of laws degree from The University of Western Ontario. Dr. Kuhnlein currently directs a Global Health Research initiative through Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) involving 12 cultures of Indigenous Peoples in different parts of the world. The overall intent of the initiative is to provide evidence that biodiversity inherent in traditional food resources of Indigenous Peoples fosters food security and good health and should be environmentally protected. Harriet chairs the Task Force on Traditional, Indigenous and Cultural Food and Nutrition of the International Union of Nutritional Sciences, as well as the Council of Canadian Academies Expert Panel on Food Security Research in Northern Canada. She is a Fellow of the American Society of Nutrition and a Fellow the International Union of Nutritional Sciences.

Grace Marquis, Associate Professor in McGill’s School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition and CRC Research Chair in Social and Environmental Aspects of Nutrition. Grace’s research examines how inadequate breastfeeding practices, poor quality of complementary foods, deteriorated childcare practices and frequent infections contribute to compromised health, growth and intellectual development of children. In Ghana, as in other countries in Africa where HIV is prevalent, many communities are struggling with infant feeding decisions after human milk was identified as a means of transmitting HIV. Grace’s research focuses on local solutions to improve the safety of infant feeding, decreasing the risk of transmitting the virus while maintaining a well-nourished child. In addition, Grace is clarifying the benefits breastfeeding has for children and how different physiological states, such as a new pregnancy or maternal illness, can affect those benefits. Graces' research on child feeding is producing valuable recommendations on ways to ensure the health and well-being of children around the world.

Tim Johns, Professor of Human Nutrition in McGill’s School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition. Tim’s research focuses on the traditional uses of plants for food and medicine in relation to issues of the health of human populations and of the environments in which they live. This has involved field studies in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Canada on traditional subsistence systems and laboratory studies of the nutrient, phytochemical and biological activities of plants identified in the field. This research focuses both on the evolution of human dietary and medicinal behaviours as well as the process of change to a modern life-style and the environmental determinants and consequences of such change. Tim’s research provides cross-cultural insights into disease and identifies agents with potential for contributing to human health in developing and developed countries.

Hugo Melgar-Quinonez joined CINE in summer 2012 in his new role as Director of McGill’s Institute for Global Food Security.  After graduating as a physician in 1992 at the University Friedrich Schiller in Germany, Hugo received his doctoral degree in 1996 on a dissertation focused on the main causes of mortality in Mozambique. Once in the US, where he arrived in 1998, Hugo worked on food insecurity research with Latino immigrants in California, setting up the basis for subsequent studies in rural communities in several Latin American countries. His studies lead to further validation studies on adapted household food security instruments in a wide range of countries (Bolivia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Colombia, Ecuador, Ghana, and Guatemala, among others). Hugo’s research focuses in general on food insecurity and health related outcomes in high-risk groups and minority populations, and in particular on developing reliable survey methods and questions to assess household experience of food insecurity and hunger in a cross-cultural context.

Nil Basu, joined CINE in summer 2013 as Associate Professor in Environmental Toxicology, cross-appointed to McGill’s Department of Natural Resource Sciences and School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition. He holds a Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Environmental Health Studies.  Nil studies the exposure of humans and wildlife to mercury and other environmental toxicants, develops new laboratory methods for assessing low-level and early stage toxicity, and investigates wildlife as sentinels of human and ecosystem health. Nil conducts research in the North, the South, and around the world, with ongoing projects in the Great Lakes region, Greenland, Asia, Central America, and Africa. Current community-based projects involve partnerships with the Aamjiwnaang First Nation in southern Ontario, Indigenous groups in Guatemala, and small-scale mining communities in Ghana.

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