New national cancer strategy has focus on Inuit, First Nations and Métis people

The Canadian Partnership against Cancer has released its latest 10-year strategy and it includes a special focus on Inuit, First Nations, and Métis people.  

The report is called the Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control and relies on consultations with dozens of Indigenous organizations across the country, including nearly all the land claim organizations in the Northwest Territories.

The most common concerns raised in the report were a lack of cancer services near home, and racism in the health-care system. There were also calls for more Indigenous-specific data on cancer outcomes.

Cheryl Smith, a Métis board member with the partnership, says featuring the concerns of Indigenous people in the new strategy is important because First Nations, Inuit and Métis patients experience poorer cancer outcomes than other people in Canada.

Smith says those poorer outcomes could be attributed to the lack of services near Indigenous communities.

Ruth Wright, co-founder of a cancer support group in Inuvik, N.W.T., supports the organization’s new 10-year cancer strategy. (Submitted by Ruth Wright)

“You are being taken out of your community to go for treatment,” Smith said. “And you don’t know how long that will take, how long you will be there. And that’s a lot of stress right there.”

Ruth Wright is a co-founder of a cancer support group in Inuvik, N.W.T., one of very few such groups in the territory.

She agrees with Smith and adds that Indigenous patients need more culturally appropriate support in southern hospitals and at home.

“The first thing you think of [when you receive a cancer diagnosis] is death,” Wright said. “You have all these thoughts rushing and you don’t know how to grasp anything.”

Smith says the report is now with the federal health minister and that her organization will be following up with Indigenous organizations about how to implement the cancer strategy.

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