Kirsty Duncan

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Kirsty Duncan
Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
In office
November 20, 2019 – December 3, 2021
Prime MinisterJustin Trudeau
Preceded byChris Bittle
Succeeded bySherry Romanado
Minister of Science and Sport
In office
November 4, 2015 – November 20, 2019
Prime MinisterJustin Trudeau
Preceded byHerself (Sport and Persons with Disabilities)
Ed Holder (Science and Technology)
Succeeded byPosition abolished
Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities
In office
January 25, 2018 – July 18, 2018
Prime MinisterJustin Trudeau
Preceded byKent Hehr
Succeeded byHerself (Sport)
Carla Qualtrough (Persons with Disabilities)
Member of Parliament
for Etobicoke North
Assumed office
October 14, 2008
Preceded byRoy Cullen
Personal details
Kirsty Ellen Duncan

(1966-10-31) October 31, 1966 (age 57)
Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada
Political partyLiberal
Residence(s)Richmond Gardens,[1] Etobicoke, Ontario
Alma materUniversity of Toronto (BA)
University of Edinburgh (PhD)
ProfessionGeographer, professor, politician

Kirsty Ellen Duncan PC MP (born October 31, 1966) is a Canadian politician and medical geographer from Ontario, Canada. Duncan has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for the Toronto riding of Etobicoke North since 2008, and she served as deputy leader of the government in the House of Commons from 2019 to 2021. Duncan has previously served as minister of science and minister of sport and persons with disabilities.[2] She has published a book about her 1998 expedition to uncover the cause of the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic.

Early life and education[edit]

After graduating from Kipling Collegiate Institute in 1985 as an Ontario scholar, Duncan studied geography and anthropology at the University of Toronto. She then entered graduate school at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, and completed a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in geography in 1992.[3]

Duncan said that she was emotionally and psychologically abused during her time as a gymnast.[4] According to Duncan, after starting gymnastics at age six, she was repeatedly called fat despite being a normal weight. She developed unhealthy eating habits to avoid gaining weight and by her second year of undergrad, had damaged her stomach lining.[5]

Academic career[edit]

Duncan was an associate professor of Health Studies at the University of Toronto, where she taught global environmental processes and medical geography.[6] Duncan is the former research director for the AIC Institute of Corporate Citizenship at the Rotman School of Management.[7] As well, Duncan served on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an organization which won the Nobel Prize in 2007.[6]

From 1993 to 2000, Duncan taught meteorology, climatology and climate change at the University of Windsor.[8] In 1992, as she became aware of the increasing probability of a global flu crisis, she was led to investigate the cause of the similar 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, saying, "I was horrified we didn’t know what caused Spanish flu, and also knew that if we could find fragments of the virus, we might be able to find a better flu vaccine".[9]

Though at the time she "knew nothing about influenza",[10] she began what she called a "six-month crash course in virology".[10] Eventually, she began searching for possible frozen samples of lung and brain tissue that might contain the virus. Her initial thoughts led her to think of Alaska,[10] as it contains large areas of permafrost, which would leave the viruses intact, but the search proved fruitless.

Eventually, after several years of searching, Duncan learned of seven miners who had died from the Spanish flu and were buried in the small town of Longyearbyen, Norway, an area that would contain permafrost. She then began assembling a team of scientists to accompany her. After several more years of preparation, which involved garnering various permissions to perform the exhumations, the ground survey began in 1998. The expedition was exemplary in terms of biosafety procedures and treatment of culturally sensitive sites. However, it did not yield samples from which the virus could be reconstructed, as the bodies were not in permafrost.[11]

In 2003, Duncan wrote a book about her expedition, entitled Hunting the 1918 Flu: One Scientist's Search for a Killer Virus. Published by the University of Toronto Press, it details Duncan's process and the expedition itself. After the book's publication, Duncan began speaking about pandemics, which led her to begin teaching corporate social responsibility at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management. In 2008, Duncan published a second book, Environment and Health: Protecting our Common Future.

Duncan was an adjunct professor teaching both medical geography at the University of Toronto and global environmental processes at Royal Roads University, and served on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an organization that won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore.[12]

In 2018, the University of Edinburgh awarded her an honorary degree.[13] Kirsty Duncan was also recognized as one of the 100 Influential Women in Oncology by OncoDaily.[14]

Federal politics[edit]

In February 2008, Roy Cullen announced that he would not be running in the next federal election[15] and Duncan was appointed as the next Liberal candidate. She was elected in the 2008 general election and re-elected in the 2011, 2015, 2019 and 2021 general elections.

On November 4, 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed her to the Cabinet as minister of science.[16] Duncan was tasked with establishing the new position of chief science officer that would serve as a replacement to the national science adviser role eliminated by Stephen Harper in 2008.[3] As well Duncan became minister for sports and persons with disabilities after Kent Hehr resigned from Cabinet following sexual misconduct allegations.[17]

Duncan with Justin Trudeau and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi, India, 2018

As minister of science and sport, Duncan made ending abuse and harassment in sport her priority since taking over the portfolio in January 2018.[18] In February 2019, Duncan convened provincial and territorial sports ministers to sign a joint declaration on combating misconduct such as abuse, harassment, and discrimination. The 2019 federal budget promised $30 million over the next five years to achieve those goals.[4]

Duncan wanted to institute a series of initiatives, including establishing new policy for national sports organizations, funding the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada to create an investigation unit, and setting up a toll-free confidential tipline for athletes and witnesses to call if they experience abuse. Duncan's action items included creating a code of conduct with sanctions and finding a way to prevent coaches or officials from freely moving to another province or club after allegations of abuse. Currently this action item is a work in progress.[18]

Duncan's priority as minister of science was to "unmuzzle our scientists".[19] Duncan was able to bring back the long-form census in 2016 and the chief scientific advisor position.[20]

Duncan reported that the government in 2018 devoted $2.8 billion to renewing Canada's federal science laboratories because they said that they understand the critical role that government researchers play in Canada's science and research community.[21]

Duncan was re-elected in the 2019 federal election, following which she was appointed deputy leader of the government in the House of Commons.[22][23] The sports portfolio folded into the Canadian Heritage portfolio.[4] After the 2021 federal election, she became the chair of the science and research committee.[24]

On January 26, 2023, Duncan issued a statement that she would be taking medical leave, but remain as an MP, because of a "physical health challenge".[24] The following day, Duncan called for a public inquiry into abuse in Canadian sports and criticized the Trudeau government for not effectively following up on her initiatives as sports minister.[4]

In June 2023, Duncan told a committee of MPs that when her time as sport minister ended in 2019, she had been told the role needed to “get back to what sport was really about” after she asked about plans for tackling safe sport reform. She said she had responded; “So not protecting children.”[1]

Electoral record[edit]

2021 Canadian federal election: Etobicoke North
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Liberal Kirsty Duncan 21,201 59.6 -1.8 $71,639.16
Conservative Priti Lamba 8,866 24.9 +2.7 $81,543.28
New Democratic Cecil Peter 3,708 10.4 -0.4 none listed
People's Jim Boutsikakis 1,473 4.1 +1.3 $0.00
Independent Carol Royer 316 0.9 $7,250.71
Total valid votes/Expense limit 35,564 $107,272.58
Total rejected ballots 494
Turnout 36,058 50.2
Eligible voters 71,876
Source: Elections Canada[25]
2019 Canadian federal election: Etobicoke North
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Liberal Kirsty Duncan 26,388 61.4 -1.01 $67,270.39
Conservative Sarabjit Kaur 9,524 22.2 -0.80 none listed
New Democratic Naiima Farah 4,654 10.8 -1.61 none listed
People's Renata Ford 1,196 2.8 - none listed
Green Nancy Ghuman 1,080 2.5 +1.25 none listed
Canada's Fourth Front Sudhir Mehta 104 0.2 - $0.00
Total valid votes/expense limit 42,946 100.0
Total rejected ballots 565
Turnout 43,511 58.8
Eligible voters 73,970
Liberal hold Swing -0.11
Source: Elections Canada[26][27]
2015 Canadian federal election: Etobicoke North
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Liberal Kirsty Duncan 26,251 62.41 +19.84 $69,670.96
Conservative Toyin Dada 9,673 23.00 -8.96 $60,237.66
New Democratic Faisal Hassan 5,220 12.41 -11.21 $37,513.09
Green Akhtar Ayub 524 1.25 +1.08 $1,558.16
Marxist–Leninist Anna Di Carlo 232 0.55
No affiliation George Szebik 164 0.39
Total valid votes/expense limit 42,064 100.00   $201,932.10
Total rejected ballots 257 0.61
Turnout 42,321 62.18
Eligible voters 68,063
Liberal hold Swing +14.40
Source: Elections Canada[28][29]

2011 Canadian federal election
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Liberal Kirsty Duncan 13,665 42.4 -6.2
Conservative Priti Lamba 10,357 32.1 +2.0
New Democratic Diana Andrews 7,630 23.7 +8.0
Libertarian Alex Dvornyak 208 0.7 -4.1
Marxist–Leninist Anna Di Carlo 189 0.6 -0.4
Christian Heritage John C. Gardner 186 0.6
Total valid votes 32,235 100.0
Total rejected ballots 279 0.9 +0.2
Turnout 32,514 52.5
Eligible voters 61,930
Liberal hold Swing -4.1
2008 Canadian federal election
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Liberal Kirsty Duncan 15,244 48.6 -13.0 $54,827
Conservative Bob Saroya 9,436 30.1 +7.8 $64,024
New Democratic Ali Naqvi 4,940 15.7 +5.1 $35,653
Green Nigel Barriffe 1,460 4.7 +2.1 $2,242
Marxist–Leninist Anna Di Carlo 300 1.0 +0.4
Total valid votes/Expense limit 31,380 100.0 $79,011
Total rejected ballots 214 0.68
Turnout 31,594
Liberal hold Swing -10.4

See also[edit]

  • Johan Hultin, a pathologist who also used frozen tissues to study the 1918 influenza virus


  1. ^ "Search For Contributions". Elections Canada. Retrieved 2021-06-23.
  2. ^ "Federal election 2019: Liberals maintain hold on key ridings in vote-rich Ontario". Retrieved 2019-12-12.
  3. ^ a b Jones, Nicola (24 December 2015). "Canada's top scientist faces tough challenge". Nature. 528 (7583): 445. Bibcode:2015Natur.528..445J. doi:10.1038/528445a. PMID 26701031. S2CID 4458708.
  4. ^ a b c d Heroux, Devin (January 27, 2023). "Trudeau government dropped the ball on fighting abuse in sport, former minister says". CBC News. Retrieved January 28, 2023.
  5. ^ Heroux, Devin (January 29, 2023). "Ex-sport minister says verbal abuse about her weight as a young gymnast led to lifelong struggles". CBC News. Retrieved January 31, 2023.
  6. ^ a b "Biography | Kirsty Duncan | Your member of parliament for Etobicoke North". Retrieved 2019-12-12.
  7. ^ "The Honourable Kirsty Duncan". Research Canada. Retrieved 2019-12-12.
  8. ^ "New federal cabinet boasts UWindsor ties". DailyNews. Retrieved 2019-12-12.
  9. ^ Gladwell, Malcolm (September 29, 1997). "The Dead Zone". The New Yorker.
  10. ^ a b c Duncan, Kirsty (2003). Hunting the 1918 Flu: One Scientist's Search for a Killer Virus. University of Toronto Press. ISBN 978-0-8020-8748-5.
  11. ^ "Excavating the Flu". Defining Moments Canada. Retrieved November 10, 2020.
  12. ^ "Advisory Board". Canadian Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. Retrieved 2019-12-12.
  13. ^ "Honorary Graduates in 2018". The University of Edinburgh. Retrieved 2018-07-23.
  14. ^ "100 Influential Women in Oncology: Key Opinion Leaders to follow on Social Media in 2023". OncoDaily.
  15. ^ Shephard, Tamara (2008-09-04). "Election call expected Sunday". Toronto Community News. Metroland Media Group. Retrieved 2008-09-30.[permanent dead link]
  16. ^ "Full list of Justin Trudeau's cabinet". CBC. 4 November 2015. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
  17. ^ "Justin Trudeau keeps saying science minister is a Nobel Prize winner; she's not". Global News. Retrieved 2019-12-12.
  18. ^ a b Chidley-Hill, John (August 16, 2019). "Canada's minister of sport Kirsty Duncan: More anti-abuse work to be done". CBC. Retrieved December 11, 2019.
  19. ^ News, Alastair Sharp in; August 16th 2019, Politics | (2019-08-16). "How the Trudeau government reversed Harper's anti-science agenda". National Observer. Retrieved 2019-12-12. {{cite web}}: |last1= has generic name (help)CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  20. ^ Sharp, Alastair (2019-08-16). "How the Trudeau government reversed Harper's anti-science agenda". National Observer. Retrieved 2019-12-12.
  21. ^ "Industry Committee on May 30th, 2019 |". Retrieved 2019-12-12.
  22. ^ "Federal election 2019: Liberals maintain hold on key ridings in vote-rich Ontario". Retrieved 2019-12-12.
  23. ^ "Deputy PM Freeland to oversee relations with U.S. and provinces in Trudeau's new cabinet". Retrieved 2019-11-20.
  24. ^ a b Stober, Eric (January 26, 2023). "Liberal MP Kirsty Duncan to take leave of absence due to 'health challenge'". Global News. Retrieved January 28, 2023.
  25. ^ "September 20, 2021 General Election Results: Etobicoke North". Elections Canada. Retrieved December 31, 2021.
  26. ^ "List of confirmed candidates". Elections Canada. Retrieved October 4, 2019.
  27. ^ "Election Night Results". Elections Canada. Retrieved November 5, 2019.
  28. ^ "Voter Information Service - Who are the candidates in my electoral district?".
  29. ^ Elections Canada – Final Candidates Election Expenses Limits
29th Ministry – Cabinet of Justin Trudeau
Cabinet posts (2)
Predecessor Office Successor
Kent Hehr Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities
January 25, 2018 – July 18, 2018
Ed Holder Minister of Science
November 4, 2015 – November 20, 2019

External links[edit]