About Varda Burstyn
“One of Canada’s foremost left feminist theoreticians and eco-organizers.”
- Peter Graham and Ian McKay, Radical Ambition: The New Left in Toronto. 2019
“With great intelligence and insight it underlines the central role sport plays in the ‘making of men’ in modern Western culture. It should be required reading for anyone seriously interested in the pervasive influence of sport today.”
- David Meggyesy, Western Director, National Football League Players Association
"A smart, sexy, witty, and hard-hitting ecothriller."
- Donna Seaman, Booklist.
In 2005 and 2006, Varda took on emerging issues in the emerging knowledge about the widespread adverse effects of environmental, especially chemical, agents on children’s health. She wrote a loose series of three articles on different aspects of this subject, two anthologized in Praeger Press’s cross-over series, Childhood in America , the third in the acclaimed anthology, Child Honouring.
Since the mid 2000s, Varda has worked with a variety of allies and clients – patients’ organizations, health care providers, government health officials, physicians and others, in voluntary and consultative capacities – on an extended multi-stage, multi-component effort to bring about health care services for people who suffer from a number of chronic, environmentally- linked illnesses that have become epidemic, but for which Canada’s health care systems provide no care.
And so, from 2008 to 2017, with a number of other senior colleagues in and around Ontario’s health care system and in advocacy organizations, she was the initiator, then eventually the lead overall project consultant of what turned into a multi-year, multi-stakeholder study process to establish a network of environmental health clinics and centre of excellence, called the Ontario Centre of Excellence in Environmental Health (OCEEH) – learn more about this project and the reports it produced.
This process eventually resulted in the establishment of an Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s Task Force on Environmental Health 2016 to December 2018, which produced two reports, in 2017 and 2018. Varda was instrumental in writing the first in 2017, but resigned after this because of major differences she had regarding the government’s limits and distortions of the mandate of the task force. Her history and evaluation of the task force’s Phase 1 report (2017) are available here, from her informational website, Dispatches from the Chemical Edge. Click here for her 2019 critique of key aspects of the final report.
Varda continued to organize and write, particularly about MCS. In 2022, her article for Herizons Magazine, a popular explanation and discussion of the politics of MCS, appeared in the March/Spring issue. As well, for her collaborative, the Ontario Environmental Health Advocates Group, as lead author she wrote a major report aggregating, analyzing and translating the most recent research on MCS, addressing the contested nature of the disease process, codifying key lessons from the clinical record and making a set of policy recommendations for both provincial and federal levels of government. Book length and comprehensive, it is the only such report on MCS that exists at this time.
For many years, Varda spoke widely about her areas of interest as a featured speaker at universities, conferences and colloquia and social/political events including, multiple times, in Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, London (ON), Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver in Canada; in London and Manchester in the UK; and in Madison, Detroit, New York City, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Boston and Pittsburgh in the United States. She has also been called on for commentary by CBC and CTV national public affairs programs (as well as consulting to some of these on occasion); and has been featured on many other regional and local television and radio broadcasts over the years, including Democracy Now and other U.S. radio outlets. In addition to serving on the board of Greenpeace, she has also served on a number of other boards, including film festivals, national women’s organizations and environmental health organizations. From 2016 to 2023, Varda served as a member of the board of the Chemical Sensitivity Foundation (USA).
Varda Burstyn has lived and worked for extended periods in Toronto, Tel Aviv, Chicago, Vancouver, Montreal and Cincinnati, and spent considerable time in the southwest of France. She now lives northeast of Toronto with her husband and frequent collaborator, David S. Fenton.