Fix for Nunavut food problems must come from people: NDP MP
"Solutions are going to come from community”
Solutions to food insecurity in Nunavut have to come from people in Nunavut, said Jean Crowder, the New Democratic Party’s aboriginal affairs critic and MP for Nanaimo-Cowichan, who visited Iqaluit June 5.
“There is a role for the federal government, for sure, because they have the funding role, and they have the role of research and development, they have a role of pilot projects, but solutions are going to come from community members because they’re on the ground and they understand what the real challenges are,” Crowder said in a discussion with about 30 people at the Iqaluit soup kitchen.
Crowder’s three-day trip to the territory included a trip to Pangnirtung on June 4 and ends June 6 after a visit to the Nunavut legislature and meetings with the Government of Nunavut and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.
Crowder said elders in Pangnirtung told her it’s getting harder to hunt because of rising fuel costs.
In response, Crowder said the subsidies that are available are “either not enough or are not evenly distributed.”
“They are less able to provide the country food that people want,” she said of the hunters.
With Nutrition North, subsidies are only available when country food is processed in a federally-regulated facility, Crowder said.
As for healthy store-bought food, many people cannot read labels to determine, for example, the sodium content of a product.
And expiry dates can also be misleading, because the expiry date isn’t the same as the best before date, Crowder said.
Again, Crowder stressed the importance of working together on expanding that knowledge.
“If it’s not a community solution, it probably isn’t going to work,” she said.
Leesee Papatsie, an organizer of a June 9 Iqaluit protest against high food prices asked Crowder why she was there. “You hear public concern then you [may] put it on a shelf,” she said.
Crowder responded “you will hear back from me,” saying she plans to summarize her experiences and send them back to Nunavut for the community to review.
“People both here and in Pangnirtung have talked about poverty, they’re worried about housing, they’re worried about income, they’re worried about access to food, and people are very concerned that it’s only going to get worse,” she said.
Crowder said she’s travelled to the North before, but she was surprised at “how vocal people had been about their frustration and their anger,” surrounding food.
“I’m from the South, and so we get a filtered message from where we are,” she said. “It’s important to talk to people who are living the experience.”
That was a big part of coming to Nunavut, because too many times people say southerners don’t listen, she said.
When the United Nations special rapporteur visited Canada, the reaction was “to shoot the messenger” by attacking the rapporteur, Crowder said.
In his report, the UN’s Olivier De Schutter said 2.5 million people in Canada are too poor to afford an adequate diet. Crowder said that the NDP has an anti-poverty bill in the works because poverty is directly linked to the lack of food.