First Nations break language barriers with initiative to increase organ and tissue donation

    THUNDER BAY, ON, Feb. 27 /CNW/ - Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief
Stan Beardy together with Frank Markel, President and CEO of Trillium Gift of
Life Network (TGLN) and Michael Gravelle, Minister of Northern Development and
Mines, are breaking language barriers by reaching out to First Nations across
Ontario with today's launch of native language brochures promoting the
life-saving benefits of organ and tissue donation.
    "Today we are transcending language gaps to make critical, life-saving
information available to all the people of Nishnawbe Aski in order to improve
the health of our Aboriginal people," said Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand
Chief Stan Beardy. "By reaching out in the traditional languages of Ojibway,
Cree and Oji-Cree we are specifically targeting First Nation people who have
never had the opportunity to register their consent for organ and tissue
    TGLN and NAN launched the English version of the brochure earlier this
week to encourage organ and tissue donation in not only NAN's 49 First Nations
communities, from the Manitoba border in the west to the Quebec border in the
east, but also for the whole of the province. This is the first time in
Canada's history that a First Nations group has taken the initiative to create
an awareness to promote organ and tissue donation.
    "It is truly inspiring to see such strong leadership from NAN and Grand
Chief Stan Beardy for organ and tissue donation. This initiative by NAN will
not only save and enhance the lives of First Nations people, but lives in all
communities across Ontario," said Frank Markel, President and CEO of TGLN. "We
are all in this together. We urge all Ontarians to follow the lead of NAN and
be part of the solution by helping us to improve organ and tissue donation
rates in Ontario."
    Today in Ontario there are 1,669 men, women and children waiting for an
organ transplant.
    "I lost complete eyesight in my right eye when I was just nine years old,
and for 25 years there was no way to restore my vision until the opportunity
arose for tissue donation that gave me the hope that one day I would be able
to see again," said Madelaine Kioke, a member of Attawapiskat First Nation
living in Timmins who received a successful eye transplant in 1984. "Before my
transplant I thought my life would never be the same, but after receiving the
gift of life I believe this gift of vision is nothing short of a miracle."
    "I am extremely pleased that this partnership between Nishnawbe Aski
Nation and the Ontario Trillium Gift of Life Network has come into fruition,"
said Michael Gravelle, Minister of Northern Development and Mines. "As we
spread the word about organ and tissue donation to everyone in the province,
we can ensure that more lives in Ontario will be saved."
    Stan and Nellie Beardy tragically lost their son Daniel in 2004. They
made the decision to donate Daniel's organs and tissues to give the gift of
life to people in desperate need of life-saving transplants. Grand Chief
Beardy is now spearheading the drive to educate First Nation people about
organ and tissue donation. He encourages them to come forward to register
their consent to donate.
    "The opportunity to become organ and tissue donors may be new to many
people of Nishnawbe Aski, but the value of sharing and helping others in need
is deeply rooted in our spirituality and culture. I encourage everyone in our
communities to seriously consider this wonderful opportunity to give the gift
of life," said Beardy. "By becoming organ and tissue donors, we as First
Nation people can give each recipient a second chance at life. This will help
strengthen the resilience of our people while improving the health and
well-being of our communities."
    You can register your consent to donate your organs and tissue by
visiting your local Service Ontario Health Card Services - OHIP office or
Outreach Site where you renew your health card. You can also register by
downloading and filling out a Gift of Life Consent Form from and mailing it to the address on the form.
    If you've already signed your donor card, please also register your
decision and talk to your family about your decision.

    /NOTE TO PHOTO EDITORS: A photo accompanying this release is available on
    the CNW Photo Network and archived at
    Additional archived images are also available on the CNW Photo Archive
    website at Images are free to accredited
    members of the media/

For further information:

For further information: Michael Heintzman, Media Relations Officer -
Nishnawbe Aski Nation, (807) 625-4906, or (807) 621-2790 mobile; Carrie Hoto,
Media Relations Advisor - Trillium Gift of Life Network, (416) 735-0099
(mobile), (email)

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