A group from Mathias Colomb Cree Nation​ marched to Winnipeg to raise awareness about high rates of cancer  —  including, stomach, brain and lung — in their northern Manitoba town.


A group marched from Cranberry Portage to Winnipeg, arriving Wednesday at the Manitoba legislative building, to raise awareness about high rates on cancer in northern Manitoba. (Meagan Fiddler/CBC)

The group of about 50 people started the the walk on Friday from Cranberry-Portage, south of Mathias Colomb, arriving at the northern edge of the city on Wednesday morning.

Without a march permit for the city, they drove the remainder of the way into downtown and to the Manitoba legislative building.

The group, carrying signs and chanting, is asking for better services to treat cancer.

The idea came from band member Frank Linklater, who has terminal cancer.

"Frank wants to get it addressed and he's really specific on just the cancer, just to make it aware that there's a high rate of cancer, you know, in our community," said Ken Bighetty, with the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation health authority.

"He really wanted to address that and that's what he wanted to bring out, too."

Some people believe the cause of the disease is a diesel spill on the First Nation back in the 1970s, which wasn't discovered for another decade.

“The huge contamination of the diesel spill that took place – Frank lived right in the plume, which is, you look at the studies, Frank lived right in the plume,” said Bighetty.

Band Councillor Lorna Bighetty said the band isn’t satisfied with cleanup efforts.

“This is caused by that one thing. It’s because of that contamination,” she said. The walk, she said, is a plea for help to get more nurses and better equipment on the First Nation.

Members need to get diagnosed sooner, she added.

Ken Bighetty also speculates the cancer rates can be traced back to lead paint as well as asbestos that was used as insulation.