THUNDER BAY -LIVING – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde and AFN Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day have shown their support for a group of Cat Lake First Nation members walking from Ontario to British Columbia to raise awareness of the need for cancer prevention and early detection in remote communities.
“On behalf of the national AFN executive, I commend the team from Cat Lake for their leadership, dedication and initiative in bringing much needed attention to the challenges facing people living with cancer in remote communities,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde. “These walkers are standing up for our right to quality health care and I fully support their efforts. The AFN continues to advocate and foster partnerships to ensure First Nations have access to preventative tools, screening and early detection as well as cancer treatments and care.”
The Cat Lake Kii-Chii-Ak-Koo-Zeen Cancer Awareness Walk began in Thunder Bay, Ontario on July 10. The four member team – mother Joyce Wesley-Peters, her two sons Wilfrid Wesley Jr and Seth Peters and her nephew Christopher Oshag – is walking and running 3,025 kilometres to Vancouver, British Columbia. For more information on the team’s efforts, including donation information, please visit: http://www.gofundme.com/CancerNorth.
“The Chiefs of Ontario are committed to clear pathways and partnerships that address the realities of cancer in northern First Nations. We are looking forward to direct dialogue in months to come that will focus on models to increase a positive impact on this dreaded illness. We thank and acknowledge the dedication and courage of the Cat Lake walkers and want to assure them that we are going to follow the pace of their walk and help their cause by putting this matter on a heightened health priority for all Ontario First Nations,” said AFN Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day.
Statistics vary from region to region, but cancer is the third leading cause of death among First Nations. While every community faces unique challenges, common issues for First Nations cancer patients include equitable access to culturally safe prevention and screening services, equitable access to culturally safe cancer care, seamless continuity of care across various healthcare settings and jurisdictions, timely access to needed Non-Insured Health Benefits, and access to local community based palliative services and survivor support.
AFN is currently working with the Government of Canada and national partners (Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, Canadian Cancer Action Network) to address priority areas in cancer prevention and care, including integrated approaches to traditional health supports and addressing jurisdictional barriers in prevention, screening and treatment for First Nations patients and families impacted by cancer.
In September 2014, AFN launched a video series on cancer screening that shares the personal story of former AFN Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy, urging First Nation citizens across the country to take steps toward prevention. To view the video ‘Early Detection: The Path to a Good Life’.
More information on cancer related resources for First Nations is available at: http://health.afn.ca/en/highlights/general/afn-cancer-bulletin.