Friday, September 19, 2014
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'Cancer on the rise in Pukatawagan First Nation' says walkers from northern community

CTV Winnipeg

Dozens of people from the remote community of Pukatawagan spent three days walking and hoping to raise awareness about health concerns they see on their reserve.


"Our cancer rates are starting to show up, they need some resolution to the problem," said youth representative, Richard Dumas says.

Leaders from the community say what they’ve started to see is more and more people suffering from cancer.

"We just buried a teacher from our community just three days ago. She died from cancer. Two weeks before that we buried two elders. One with breast cancer, another with a brain tumor," said band councillor Lorna Bighetty.

The community's health director says the people need better access to health care.

"We have a lack of services and also the travel is very tedious, especially in isolated communities and the turnaround for appointments is two months for chronic patients," added Ken Bighetty.

Cancer Care Manitoba’s director, Dr. Sri Navaratnam admits access to care is a problem in remote communities, but says since 2011 cancer care has created a team dedicated to educating First Nations, Inuit and Metis people diagnosed with cancer. And she says the organization offers more services in all parts of the province.

"There is no indication the incidences are any different in the northern region as compared to the other regions,” said Dr. Navaratnam.

However, people who live in Pukatawagan worry that soil contamination from a Manitoba Hydro plant may have something to do with their cancer rate.

They would like to see the federal government do further environmental assessments to eliminate the possibility an oil spill discovered in 1989 is now making people sick.

The federal government says it's looking into the situation regarding the soil contamination and hopes to provide more information in the coming days.

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