Living with diabetes in Moose Factory

By Mackenzie Patterson

The photo documentary project was brought to the Ryerson Image Centre this past week and will be showcased until April 10.

Manson, a Toronto-based documentary photographer and Ryerson instructor, spent several months in the Moose Factory community, documenting the lives of the people with Type 2 diabetes (which is a result of insulin resistance) who live there. While doing so, he learned why there is such a high rate of the disease among the Moose Creek.

WEB-mosse factoryPhotos hang in Ryerson Image Centre. (Courtesy Mackenzie Patterson)

“The problem is multi-faceted,” Manson said. “It’s complicated and layered. But these people are three to five time more likely to suffer from diabetes than we are.”

While there are many different causes for the epidemic, Manson’s exhibit deals with the many factors that have contributed to the problem over time. One of the most pressing issues for the community is the lack of access to quality health care and fresh, healthy food.

“The community is remote. It’s about 800 kilometres north of (Toronto). Do they have decent access to health care and fresh food? No, they don’t,” Manson said.

Another significant cause for the explosion of the disease in First Nations communities is the downfall of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, which modern technology has made virtually obsolete.

“There are so many barriers to hunting. The modern life is so seductive, especially for the younger generation. It’s not cool to hunt,” Manson said.

The loss of culture, language and traditional knowledge resulting from residential school systems has also contributed to the high rates of diabetes in the community.

“With diabetes, you need a social network and your family around for support. And helpful bits of information about cooking and taking care of yourself no longer get passed down because the younger generation can’t speak to their grandparents,” Manson said.

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