Nishnawbe Aski Nation

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June 13, 2018


THUNDER BAY, ON (June 13, 2018): First Nation leaders and health officials welcomed Garry Sugarhead, of Kingfisher Lake First Nation, as he completed his journey to raise awareness for diabetes in Thunder Bay this afternoon.

“We are proud of Garry and we support his efforts to raise awareness about the terrible impacts of diabetes in our communities. Far too many of our people suffer from complications associated with diabetes and are forced to leave their communities to access treatment,” said Deputy Grand Chief Derek Fox. “Everyone in NAN territory is affected by diabetes, and I recently lost my mother to complications from this disease. We will continue to advocate for more education, and prevention services, and for increased access to treatment in our communities that will allow those affected to be cared for closer to their families.”

Garry Sugarhead began his 700 kilometer journey on May 30 in Pickle Lake. He is calling on Canada and Ontario to work with NAN to provide more diabetes services for the North.

“Our people have been devastated by diabetes and we need more done to help prevent it. We all have family members and friends that have left this world too soon because of this awful disease, said Sugarhead. “I believe that with changes such as the creation of walking trails to promote exercise, moving away from processed foods towards our traditional ones, and treatment in our communities we can begin to see relief. It is my hope that together we combat this disease.”

Services for diabetes treatment and prevention are included in NAN’s approach on Health Transformation, a broad-ranging initiative that will see First Nations take control of health care in their communities.

Type two diabetes has been reported in 21.6 per cent of First Nations people living on-reserve, far above the rate (4.8%) of those living off-reserve, according to a 2016 report by the Canadian Diabetes Association. A 2013 report found the prevalence of diabetes in Indigenous people as much as five times higher than non-Indigenous Ontarians.

Sugarhead has completed several other walks to raise awareness for issues including drug and alcohol abuse in remote First Nations in 2017 and suicide awareness in 2015.

For more information please contact: Michael Heintzman, Director of Communications – (807) 625-4965 or cell (807) 621-2790 or by email

News release