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Neuro study seeks First Nation women

The Native Women's Association of Canada wants to study something no one has studied before. And the Yukon is one of the places where they're hoping to do it.

The Native Women’s Association of Canada wants to study something no one has studied before.

And the Yukon is one of the places where they’re hoping to do it.

“The Public Health Agency of Canada put out a call to the national population on neurological health,” said research co-ordinator Melissa Blind.

“About 19 different projects answered this call. None of the other projects are looking at aboriginal people and only one other project is looking at the impacts on individuals. And we’re the only project looking at the impacts of neurological conditions on aboriginal women. So we’re pretty unique.”

As the association’s all-female, all-aboriginal research team started its work, it soon discovered that theirs is not just the only group looking at this right now, but it’s really the only project that has ever looked at how neurological conditions affect aboriginal women - ever.

For this project, “neurological condition” can mean ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, Alzheimer’s and dementia, cerebral palsy, stroke, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s disease, spina bifida, epilepsy, neurotrauma or an acquired brain injury, but the team is not turning away any women who come forward with other conditions like Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

“Anything to do with the brain, the nerves and the spinal cord,” said Blind.

There is a difference between mental health and neurological health, she noted. Disorders like depression and schizophrenia will not be considered.

The researchers want to know what living with these conditions means for aboriginal women’s own health or emotional well-being, relationships with loved ones and community, finances, life goals and ambitions.

Researchers also want to hear from caregivers of aboriginal women.

“Aboriginal women are really seen as the caregivers and caretakers in the communities,” said Blind. “They’re the mothers, the grandmothers, the aunties and a lot of times when their health is impacted or even anyone in their family’s health is impacted, they’re right there on the ground.

“A lot of aboriginal people have greater health disparities than the rest of the population,” she said. “And in certain places where aboriginal people live, they may not have the same access to services.”

Blind will be in Whitehorse from May 14 to 18, holding research circles and individual interviews on request.

The circles, which are an open forum for people to come and speak within a group about their experiences, will be held in the Lucy Jackson training room in the Yukon Employees’ Union building on Tuesday from 5 to 8 p.m. and at the Kwanlin Dun Health Centre on Wednesday from noon until 2 p.m.

The research team is also holding circles elsewhere in Canada, including in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Halifax and Ontario. The Yukon is its only northern study.

Once all the information is gathered, Blind isn’t sure what the federal health agency is going to do with it, she said.

The native women’s association plans on returning to the communities with their findings and Blind expects these will help determine what services are needed.

“What we want to do is, really, just start putting that voice out there,” she said. “There’s no information on stories from aboriginal women about how neurological conditions impact their lives, or their families and communities. We’re trying to get

at those stories and provide that picture of what it means to live with or care for someone who lives with a neurological condition.”

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Blind at

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

Aerial wolf hunting shot dead

Wolves will no longer be shot at from planes or helicopters in the Yukon.

In all fairness, they haven’t been for years. And the government said the technique was off the table back in August 2011. But now it’s official.

Instead, trapping may be the local tool managers look to for pesky wolf populations.

The Yukon government approved its Wolf Conservation and Management Plan for 2012. And at the top of the list is the removal of aerial wolf control as a recommended tool to help manage ungulate populations, like faltering caribou herds hunted by wolves.

But the plan recognizes the circle of species’ lives and includes the integration of ungulate management goals as well as the need to address wolf-human conflicts.

The Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board and the Yukon government agreed in 2010 to review the past plan, from 1992. Community meetings and workshops with wildlife management groups and First Nations were held in 2011 and there was a draft plan offered to the public for review before being sent to cabinet in December.

Aerial wolf culling is still practised in Alaska, but it isn’t cheap and it’s only a short-term solution. Plus it is considered, by many, to be inhumane.

But for moose, sheep and caribou hunters, it’s helpful.

Rural residents who have seen one-too-many pets get killed by the wild dogs also appreciate it.

Aerial wolf culls were done in the Yukon from the early 1980s to the late 1990s.

At that time, the territory began a program of surgical sterilization where the leader of the wolf pack was hunted (usually by helicopter), tranquilized and then sterilized. That was also expensive and only mildly successful.

Currently, resident hunters are limited to bag seven wolves per season. Non-resident hunters are allowed only two. There are no limits for trappers but there are growing concerns that there are fewer and fewer trappers out there, and access to trap lines is getting harder and harder to get.

The plan recommends the minister of Environment change restrictions on wolf hunting limits and season times to help with the species’ management.

There are approximately 4,500 wolves in the Yukon, spread across two-thirds of the territory. Their population is considered to be healthy and stable.

(Roxanne Stasyszyn)