Jennifer Jones

Study program:
PhD Geography
Current affiliation:
University of Guelph

Jennifer Jones (geography, University of Guelph) is looking for the best method of assessing the effects of mining industry development on the health and wellness of Aboriginal communities in northern Canada.

Jennifer Jones’ expertise focuses on First Nation health and well-being, particularly facilitation, capacity building and community-based research. Long engaged with Circumpolar health issues, Jen is an active participant in Northern dialogues about health and resourced development, her voice arising from 15 years of project management experience with a particular emphasis on community relationships. Most recently, Jen has focused on the significance of human health in resource development assessment. Jen’s doctoral research aims to conceptualize, for use in the routine assessment of a mine development, the impacts of colonialism and assimilation on Indigenous health and well-being. This work explores how mechanisms such as Health Impact Assessment and Impact and Benefit Agreements can better respond to Indigenous concepts of health and well-being. Jen’s research is part of a larger community-based project funded to enable community self-monitoring of well-being in Yukon First Nation communities. Jen brings to this research broad practical experience as both consultant and employee of First Nation organizations and governments, non-profit organizations, and the Yukon Government.

Doctoral research

Considering the Legacy of Colonial and Assimiliation Policies in the Assessment of Resource Development

Environmental assessment has long struggled effectively to identify and mitigate community and human health impacts associated with the development of mines, especially in Northern jurisdictions that are largely Indigenous. The advent of health impact assessments and impact and benefit agreements has paid attention to community health and well-being.  Coinciding with the development of these new mechanisms has been a focus on the social determinants of health (SDH). Used when assessing a mine, a SDH-based methodology helps reveal factors informing health and well-being and any disparities. But missing from contemporary assessment practice is a nuanced understanding of how the legacies of colonialism and assimilation affect Indigenous health and well-being. Jen’s doctoral research seeks to conceptualize the impacts of colonialism and assimilation policies on Indigenous health and well-being for use in the routine assessment of mine development.

After completing an undergraduate degree in geography and women's studies at Queen's University, Jennifer Jones travelled north fuelled by a drive for adventure and curiosity about people and the place they call home. For over 20 years, Jen has lived and worked around the Yukon, focusing on capacity development and community engagement.  Jen’s strong connection to the place she calls home is built on diverse experiences: living off-grid and learning to wire a cabin with 12 volts, embracing the chaos and magic of theatre, and working with Yukon First Nations’ health and social departments in rural parts of the territory.  Jen's return to school to obtain a master’s of public health from the University of Alaska Anchorage resulted from her observing the disconnect between what is known and understood by Northern communities and what is asked of Northern communities by southern policies and funders.   

Jen's awareness of the limitations of conventional governance and assessment frameworks similarly inspired her return to complete a doctorate at the University of Guelph. There, she seeks to conceptualize pathways between the legacies of colonialism and contemporary Indigenous health and well-being in the context of a mine development. Jen argues that assessing well-being in the context of mine development must consider issues of trust between Indigenous peoples, government, and developers.  This trust has a history embedded in Indigenous experiences with colonialism and assimilation policies.

As a University of Alaska Anchorage alumna, Jen was inducted into the Delta Omega Honor Society in recognition of her research and her service to public health. Jen currently co-chairs the Arctic Institute of Community-Based Participatory Research.  She has also published on participants’ perspectives of the ability of a health impact assessment to consider the complexities and nuances of health and well-being.