World Cancer Day: We must strengthen approaches to First Nations cancer control

(Ottawa, ON) – On World Cancer Day, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde, together with AFN Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day, calls on First Nations, federal and provincial governments and regional health care experts to work together to strengthen approaches to First Nations cancer control.

“A great deal of work has been done to ensure First Nations have access to preventative tools, early detection methods, and effective cancer treatments and care,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde.  “But on this World Cancer Day, we call on all levels of government to work with us to do more.   A new approach to First Nations health must include support for First Nations to lead as well as collaborate on regional cancer control strategies.  With effective and equitable partnerships with cancer control stakeholders, we can do better and we will close the gap.”

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 challenges 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.

“There is a role for everyone to ensure adequate cancer prevention, screening and treatment,” said AFN Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day who leads the national health portfolio at AFN.  “Each and every one of us has a role to inspire wellness among our peoples and communities.  Addressing the data gap in regard to health statistics is a priority for AFN.  I encourage all First Nations to participate in regional health surveys so we have a better reflection of exactly how detrimental cancer is to our people and communities.  With this input, we can then develop and implement approaches that respond directly to those real needs.”

AFN is currently working with the Government of Canada and national partners 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’ please visit:
More information on cancer related resources for First Nations is available at:

World Cancer Day takes place every February 4 with the intent to unite the world’s population in the fight against cancer. For more information please visit
The Assembly of First Nation is the national organization representing First Nation citizens in Canada.  Follow #AFN on Twitter @AFN_Comms, @AFN_Updates.

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