Kirsty Duncan

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The Honourable
Dr. Kirsty Duncan
Kirsty Duncan St. John's Rally.jpg
Minister of Science
Assumed office
November 4, 2015
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Preceded by Ed Holder
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Etobicoke North
Assumed office
October 14, 2008
Preceded by Roy Cullen
Personal details
Born Kirsty Ellen Duncan
(1966-10-31) October 31, 1966 (age 49)
Etobicoke, Ontario
Political party Liberal
Profession medical geographer, professor, politician
Website Official website

Kirsty Ellen Duncan PC MP (born October 31, 1966) is a Canadian politician and medical geographer from Ontario, Canada. Duncan is the Member of Parliament (MP) for the Liberal Party of Canada in the Toronto riding of Etobicoke North and was appointed Minister of Science, on the advice of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on November 4, 2015. She is also currently an adjunct professor at the University of Toronto and has published a book about her 1998 expedition to uncover the cause of the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic.


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 Ph.D. in geography in 1992.[1]


From 1993 to 2000, Duncan taught meteorology, climatology and climate change at the University of Windsor. 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".[2][3]

Though at the time she "knew nothing about influenza",[4] she began what she called a "six-month crash course in virology".[4] 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,[4] 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. However, the samples were not viable, as the bodies were not in the permafrost, and the expedition ultimately proved a disappointment.[2]

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 is currently 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.

Federal politics[edit]

In February 2008, Roy Cullen announced that he would not be running in the next federal election,[5] and Duncan was appointed as the next Liberal candidate. She was considered a "significant addition toward Dion's goal of fielding 103 women candidates in the next election."[6] She was elected in the 2008 general election and re-elected in the 2011 and 2015 general elections.

On November 4, 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed her to the Cabinet as Minister of Science.[7] Duncan was tasked with establishing the new position of chief science officer that would serve as a replacement to the position of national science adviser role eliminated by Stephen Harper in 2008.[1]

See also[edit]

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

Electoral record[edit]

Canadian federal election, 2015
Party Candidate Votes % ∆% Expenditures
Liberal Kirsty Duncan 26,251 62.4 +19.83
Conservative Toyin Dada 9,673 23.0 -8.96
New Democratic Faisal Hassan 5,220 12.4 -11.22
Green Akhtar Ayub 524 1.2 +1.3
Marxist–Leninist Anna Di Carlo 232 0.6 0
No affiliation George Szebik 164 0.4
Total valid votes/Expense limit 42,064 100.0     $201,391.48
Total rejected ballots 257 0.6 -0.3
Turnout 42,321 62.17 +9.67
Eligible voters 68,063
Liberal hold Swing +14.40
Source: Elections Canada[8][9]
Canadian federal election, 2011
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
Canadian federal election, 2008
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


  1. ^ a b Jones, Nicola (24 December 2015). "Canada's top scientist faces tough challenge". Nature. Retrieved 2015-12-23. 
  2. ^ a b "Digging up the deadly past". The National. Martin Newland. 2008-09-25. Retrieved 2009-09-30. 
  3. ^ Gladwell, Malcolm (September 29, 1997). "The Dead Zone". The New Yorker Magazine. 
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ Shephard, Tamara (2008-09-04). "Election call expected Sunday". Toronto Community News. Metroland Media Group. Retrieved 2008-09-30. 
  6. ^ Delacourt, Susan (2008-02-22). "Dion hand-picks Etobicoke candidate". Toronto Star. Jagoda Pike. Retrieved 2008-09-30. 
  7. ^ "Full list of Justin Trudeau's cabinet". CBC. 4 November 2015. Retrieved 4 November 2015. 
  8. ^ Elections Canada – Confirmed candidates for Etobicoke North, 30 September 2015
  9. ^ Elections Canada – Preliminary Election Expenses Limits for Candidates
29th Ministry – Cabinet of Justin Trudeau
Cabinet Post (1)
Predecessor Office Successor
Ed Holder Minister of Science
November 4, 2015-present

External links[edit]