12 September 2017

- A report from Sophia Murphy and Anelyse Weiler

Six dollars and twenty-two cents for a 1-kg bag of carrots in Nunavut. Almost one third of children in the Northwest Territories facing food insecurity. Half of a northern Ontario family’s monthly income spent just putting food on the table.

Many people are familiar with the crushing statistics on hunger and unaffordable food in Canada’s North. Those who probe a little deeper might learn about how food insecurity in the North is also linked to the ongoing legacy of colonialism, forced displacement, resource grabs and climate change.  But we often miss out on stories of strength, and how northern and Indigenous communities have been developing their own locally-relevant solutions and mobilizing for systemic change.

As part of the Foundation’s targeted areas of inquiry initiative, scholars Sophia Murphy (2013) and Anelyse Weiler (2015) received support in 2016-2017 to carry out a project entitled Strengthening Northern food security. They have been working with food security organizations in Canada’s North to ensure their policy priorities are heard loud and clear in Canada’s South. Partner organizations have included the Arctic Institute of Community-Based Research (AICBR) and Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition in Whitehorse, YT, Food Secure Canada in Montreal, and Ecology North in Yellowknife, NWT. After members of the PETF community were warmly welcomed into Whitehorse during the 2016 Summer Institute, Murphy and Weiler continued to build on relationships with local partners.

A core aim of the project was to enable northern communities to meaningfully participate in food-related dialogue and decisions that affect their lives. Because these decisions are often made in the southern part of Canada, the project supported exchanges of knowledge, networks and resources between food policy advocates travelling between the North and South.

During the 9th Annual Food Secure Canada Assembly in Toronto (October 13-16, 2016), the project helped ensure a strong presence of northerners. Katelyn Friendship, Co-Director of the AICBR, described the impact of attending the Assembly:

“It’s really important, I think, particularly for Northerners to have that opportunity to meet face to face, because we don't get that chance very often at all, if ever. So, it's much easier to work from a distance once those relationships have been seeded by having that first interaction.”

Jody Butler Walker, Co-Director of the AICBR, emphasized the importance of networking not only with new allies they met in the South, but with other northerners from across the country: “Down the road, it will help as the food crisis in the North becomes more acute, which it is probably going to do before it gets better.”

When the federal government announced a consultation process for a national Food Policy for Canada in the spring of 2017, Weiler and Murphy collaborated with Food Secure Canada to amplify the voices of organizations in the North. Organizations led their own community engagement events to gather everyday eaters’ perspectives social, economic, health and environmental values related to food in Canada. As Weiler and Murphy note in their speculative fiction article on Canada’s food revolution, projects such as Aroland Youth Blueberries in northern Ontario and the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Teaching and Working Farm in the Yukon are being used for Indigenous self-empowerment and revitalizing cultural food practices.

No matter what form the national food policy ultimately takes, it’s clear that Northerners will continue taking great pride in leading their own way toward access to healthy, dignified and culturally relevant foods.

Learn more

Sophia Murphy

How do nations achieve food sovereignty? Sophia Murphy is exploring international and local mechanisms to improve food security. 

2013 Scholars

Anelyse Weiler

Anelyse Weiler (sociology, University of Toronto) wants to understand how the perspectives of migrant farmworkers in North America on environmental, health, and equity issues can inform local and international efforts to realize more sustainable food systems.

2015 Scholars