The National Indigenous Economic Development Board (NIEDB) put out a series of recommendations on food insecurity in the north last week, an issue they say sorely needs to be addressed.
Hilda Broomfield-Letemplier, a member of the NIEDB from Happy Valley-Goose Bay, told the Labradorian that all of the areas they looked at affected Labrador and were relevant to the region.
The 12 recommendations focused on five different areas; traditional foods, local food production, federal subsidy and support programs, infrastructure investment, and project funding co-ordination and promotion.
“All of these affect Labrador,” she said. “You should be able to live a healthy lifestyle in the North, in all of Canada, without all of these barriers.”
Broomfield-Letemplier said the report came after close to a year of research and consultation, including a roundtable event held in Whitehorse, Yukon, in June of 2018 to discuss northern sustainable food systems.
For local food production, one recommendation was to support small-scale Indigenous commercial fisheries through increasing regional processing capacity and investment to ports and transportation infrastructure.
The report references the Northern Integrated Commercial Fishery Initiative, introduced in 2017 to be co-developed with the National Indigenous Fisheries Institute. According to the report, the intent of that program is to build from existing regional indigenous fisheries programs to include regions previously ineligible for support because of existing land claim settlements. That included the Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, northern Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador.
“This program is a timely opportunity to prioritize small-scale Indigenous regional fisheries and increase processing capacity,” Broomfield-Letemplier said. “As part of this initiative, it is imperative that support and investment are directed to ports, processing and transportation infrastructure, so that Northern and Indigenous fishers can retain maximum value for their catch.”
The report highlights changes needed to the Nutrition North Program, which has been the source of controversy for years.
“The shortcomings of the “market based subsidy model” of Nutrition North have been well-documented by academia, the media, as well as Indigenous representative organizations, and have already been shared with the government as part of its ongoing consultation process to revise the program,” the report reads. “Some notable concerns are price inequities, community eligibility, rates of subsidization, food item eligibility, and Northern retailer accountability.”
One recommendation would see the federal government reallocate the Nutrition North subsidy to include non-profit food markets and the transportation of traditional foods.
“I don’t think anyone is happy with the model the way it is now,” Broomfield-Letemplier said. “We want to see people being able to have healthy food. We all want that. The north is so different, I don’t think there’s a realization in the south about how people in the north live and survive. We don’t have access to the food that people do in the south.”
The report also recommends a northern infrastructure fund, supports for locally owned supply-and-distribution chains for market foods, and a guaranteed Basic Northern Income allowance.
Overall, Broomfield-Letemplier said what they heard from the public was a desire for greater participation and autonomy in Northern food systems by those most directly affected.
The completed report has been sent to a number of federal government departments for review and development.
“We’re excited about the opportunity we have to work with the government to move forward,” she said. “This would not have been possible without the support of many northerners and support of strong northern communities.”
She said the board is all Indigenous leaders and business owners from across the country and they bring a variety of experience to the board.
The full report is available on the NIEDB website here.