Improving cancer care for First Nations, Inuit and Métis

Making progress on self-determined priorities of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples will improve cancer care.

A senior aged woman sits at her kitchen table while paying medical bills, talking with her doctor, and updating medicine prescriptions.

Meaningful change, meaningful progress

Canada’s cancer strategy is focused on meaningful change that will close the gaps in cancer care and outcomes between First Nations, Inuit and Métis and other people in Canada. First Nations, Inuit and Métis governments, organizations and community partners across the country are leading the way with their own community-based solutions to improve cancer care.

Identifying priorities

The Strategy includes Peoples-specific, self-determined priorities and actions that were developed with First Nations, Inuit and Métis across the country—Elders and Knowledge Holders; Indigenous governments, organizations and community leaders; and people with cancer and their families.

The three priorities reflect areas where significant effort and investment are required:

  • Culturally appropriate care closer to home
  • Peoples-specific, self-determined cancer care
  • First Nations-, Inuit- or Métis-governed research and data systems

The partners in our initiative, Kmawuhsahtipon – Togi Pematioog – Moving Forward Side-by-Side, have been learning about each other and what is helpful for First Nations people affected by cancer. We are working together to improve cancer outcomes for First Nations people in New Brunswick.

Neqotkuk Health Centre – New Brunswick

Taking action

Work on these priorities is already underway. Peoples-specific strategies, approaches and cancer plans are being developed or implemented by Indigenous governments and organizations or in close partnership with Indigenous communities in all provinces and territories. Over 130 First Nations, Inuit and Métis governments, organizations and community partners are involved in the resulting initiatives and projects, which include:

  • CancerCare Manitoba (CCMB) Community Connectors are trusted members of First Nation, Métis and Inuit communities who have participated in training offered by CCMB on resources and programs available to patients and their family. They support patients from a community lens and act as a bridge between community and CCMB.
  • The creation of knowledge products specific to First Nations, Inuit and Métis that share promising practices for culturally appropriate palliative and end-of-life care.
  • A set of 16 Peoples-specific, self-determined indicator concepts have been developed and will be used to report on progress towards the Strategy’s priorities specific to First Nations, Inuit and Metis starting summer 2022.

Being able to receive culturally appropriate care close to home is a key priority. During the COVID-19 pandemic this was further emphasized. Learn how the Partnership is working with partners to supporting patients travelling from the north for cancer care.

Supporting patients travelling from the North for care during the COVID-19 pandemic video transcript

Closing the gap

First Nations, Inuit and Métis experience of poorer health can be traced to the legacy of colonialism. They face more barriers accessing services, receive culturally unsafe care and experience ongoing racism in the health system; the result is poorer cancer outcomes than other people in Canada. Improvement is overdue and much needed. The initiatives above and many other similar efforts will lead to a better cancer journey and better cancer outcomes for First Nations, Inuit and Métis.