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Friday, August 8, 2014

Walkers raise concern about cancer rates in northern Manitoba community

WINNIPEG - Dozens of people from the northern town of Pukatawagan, Man., have arrived in Winnipeg after walking for three days to raise awareness about health concerns on the Mathias Colomb First Nation.

Community leaders say cancer rates are rising and more needs to be done.

Ken Bighetty, Pukatawagan's health director, says residents must have better access to health care.

He says there is a lack of services locally, and travelling to the south for treatment is difficult, noting that chronic patients can wait up to two months for appointments.

Some in the community worry that soil contamination from a Manitoba Hydro plant may have something to do with the rising cancer rates.

They are calling on the federal government to 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.

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

Dr. Sri Navaratnam, director of Cancer Care Manitoba, admits access to care is a problem in remote communities, but says in 2011 the agency created a team dedicated to educating First Nations, Inuit and Metis people diagnosed with cancer.

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," says Navaratnam.

(CTV Winnipeg) -CP-

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