Fort Chipewyan First Nations last to hear about Cancer Report: Frustrated Leaders concerned about key findings

March 24, 2014, Edmonton, Alberta – Today, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) learned through media sources that Alberta Health Services (AHS) would hold a press conference to discuss the results of the Cancer Incidences Report that evaluated reported cancer in the community of Fort Chipewyan between 1992-2011. The community was not notified or invited to attend. A copy of the report was sent late Friday but did not reach key leaders until Monday morning.

“This is gross negligence. The leaders of Fort Chipewyan have been requesting a thorough analysis on incidences of cancer in our community for years. Not only was this research and study done without our direct participation we were left in the dark about key findings and the announcement of the release to the public,” stated Chief Allan Adam of the ACFN.

The report concluded that cancer in the community was not higher then expected even though it reported on three cancers of concern: bile duct cancer with 3 cases when there should have been zero; as well as higher then expected levels of cervical cancers and lung cancer.

The ACFN, along with the Mikisew Cree First Nation, the Fort Chipewyan Metis Local and the Nunee Health Board had previously cancelled a meeting with AHS in February due to a disagreement about releasing the report prior to the meeting. The community leaders had requested an advance copy of the report in order to more effectively prepare questions for the meeting and this request was not granted.

AHS had since agreed to share their findings with the leaders of Fort Chipewyan and schedule a new meeting date. As of last week a meeting date had not been confirmed and a copy of the report had not been received.

“It’s disappointing to know that our requests to be properly informed are repeatedly denied. This information is about our people, our health and our concerns,” continued Adam.

The ACFN was notified that a third party, now confirmed to be the Liberal Party Health and Aboriginal Relations Critic Dr. David Swann, had requested a copy of the report through Freedom of information and Protection and Privacy. While a report was forwarded to this source, the Fort Chipewyan leaders and health officials were not granted the same clearance.

A copy of the report was sent to the email of member of the Nunee Board and staff member of the ACFN at the end of the day on Friday March 21, 2014. However, she was not in the office and the information was not shared with leadership until late Monday morning. The message from AHS also gave no indication that a press conference and a full release of the report would be made the following Monday.

“A member of the Liberal Party contacted us this morning to inform us they had received a copy of the report and to confirm that we were aware of the findings, to which we were not. Why is it that opposition leaders are more open to sharing information with our Nation then the current Alberta House leaders? Why are we almost always the last to know?”

While the report recognizes that rare forms of bile duct, cervical and lung cancer were a cause for concern it fails to draw a conclusive result as to cause of these cancer. It should also be noted that this is not research but simply standard reporting and is not peer reviewed.

“It will be good to go through the report in greater detail, however, it’s obvious we have some questions around methodology and key findings. Although the report states that cancer is not higher then expected we can’t argue the fact that people are getting sick and people are getting cancers. It’s time for a real study, that is peer reviewed and done in partnership with our communities,” stated Adam.

“Our people are constantly left in the dark about everything from policy, land use applications and research and studies that almost always impact our people. We are leaders, elected and put into power to help our people and communities. If government’s aren’t willing to work with us as elected officials of our communities how can we serve our communities effectively? This is gross negligence and it’s absolutely unacceptable,” stated Adam.

Representatives from the ACFN attended the press conference via conference call and will be working to address concerns and questions directly with AHS and Government of Alberta and Aboriginal Relations directly.

For More Information:

Eriel Deranger, Communications Coordinator ACFN 780-903-6598