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SINCLAIRE OCCUPATION: Community development worker focusing on health and nutrition

Eighty-five per cent of Moneca Sinclaire’s first cousins have

Type 2 Diabetes. Moneca, a Cree from Northern Manitoba, discovered the alarming rate of the disease when she made a family tree tracking diabetes during a Native Health and Medicines course at the University of Manitoba in the 1980s. These shocking results clinched her decision to pursue a career where she could work with people and healthy food. Her 30-year career has taken her

many directions – she’s worked as a sessional instructor and student advisor at University of Manitoba, a community nutritionist and researcher for Health Canada and co-coordinator of Manitoba Alternative Food Research Alliance, to name just a few. “Throughout I have always

worked in food and nutrition and the historical impact of our changing diet,” she says. Much of Moneca’s work has focused on creative ways of explaining effects of diabetes to adult learners, many of whom have little scientific knowledge.

For example, she’ll mix varying amounts of sugar into tomato juice and push the mixtures through tubing to illustrate how increased sugar slows blood flow. Many of her presentations also

focus on how European contact, treaties and residential schools have impacted foods traditionally consumed by Aboriginal peoples in Canada. Aboriginal lifestyles were

traditionally based on hunting, fishing and gathering, Moneca explains. Food was highly respected and shared, and was viewed as having spiritual and medicinal components. Since then, diets have seen an

increase in sugar, salt, fat, refined grains, processed meats and high- fat dairy. According to Health Canada, First Nations on reserve have a rate of diabetes three to five times higher than that of other Canadians. “It makes me sad that a lot of our traditions are being lost because there is so much change… but it also gives me hope that people will try to nurture change.” She hopes explaining why

traditional foods have changed will help Aboriginal people reconnect with healthy food.

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