Policy Briefs: Indigenous Food Sovereignty in Canada: Policy Paper 2019

By:  Stephen Penner                   Kathleen Kevany                                     Sheri Longboat

Indigenous Nations in Canada have and continue to deal with a colonial food system that leaves many of these nations located in, what can be best described, as food wastelands, and at worst, imposes a lifetime sentence to a food prison (Finley, 2014). As we walk toward a path of reconciliation, it would be wise to acknowledge that Indigenous people had a well-developed, complex and thriving social-economic systems prior to colonial contact. Recognizing the depth of their intra-generational knowledge and deep understanding of the land can facilitate the development of a meaningful national and Indigenous food policy. One that recognizes mino-pimatwisin (Anishinaabe for good life) and maligit (balance) in Quajimajatuqangit (Inuktitut for Inuit Traditional Knowledge) nidiawemaginidog (Anishinaabe for “all my relatives”).
Resulting in a robust and meaningful Indigenous food production system. Inclusion and recognition of Indigenous food production perspective would create an authentic path to the promise of a nation to nation reality. A path that may redress the current situation which sees Indigenous people leading the list of food related diseases such as diabetes, stroke, heart and kidney disease due to the decreased access to traditional foods (also referred to in the various nations as sustenance, country or on the land foods) and imposition of a less than secure and less healthy and less sovereign food distribution system. Diabetes alone costs Canada 14 billion dollars in 2017, at an estimated 1/3 of Indigenous Canadian suffering from diabetes, that result is a staggering 207 million dollars. It is expected to rise to 252 million dollars by 2025 (Krotz, 2018). A Food Policy for Canada needs to
acknowledge the Indigenous perspective and recognize the enshrinement of local food pathways (including recognition of supportive place of traditional food (Belanger, 2018, p. 191). This food policy should stress the unique role that food play plays in facilitating health for Indigenous communities (Beck,2017).

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