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Speak out on Nutrition North
Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada hosting community meetings

Michele LeTourneau
Northern News Services
Monday, September 26, 2016

Nunavummiut have a lot to say about the Nutrition North Program and the chance to do so in person is available this week. Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) is picking up where it left off with consultations started earlier this year.

In Nunavut, so far two communities are scheduled: Iqaluit tonight, Sept. 26, at Inuksuk High School from 7 to 9 p.m. and Pond Inlet Sept. 28 at Attakaalik Hall, also from 7 to 9 p.m. Dates in Kugaaruk and Baker Lake have yet to be announced.

Asked how the four Nunavut communities were chosen, INAC had previously stated the choices were based on recommendations from the Nutrition North Canada Advisory Board and they include a mix of small, medium and larger size communities, and communities that have yet not been visited regarding Nutrition North Canada or have expressed interest in being engaged.

In an article in the current edition of the Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, authors Kristin Burnett, Travis Hay and Lori Chambers address how the program has served the purpose of making Northern indigenous communities follow non-traditional ways of eating.

"In doing so, indigenous people are shown that the only way to participate meaningfully in European-Canadian society is to shop, eat and cook just like white people," state the authors.

"Additionally, (Nutrition North) dropped things such as diapers, dental hygiene products (when 87 per cent of indigenous children in Northern communities suffer from dental decay, compared to only 14.6 per cent among the general population), toilet paper, shampoo, fishing nets, boat motor parts, ammunition, gas (things necessary to pursue hunting and fishing activities) and the extremely large and incredibly vague category of 'medical devices.'"

The Nunavut Food Security Coalition addresses such topics in its own comments regarding the program. The coalition submitted 15 recommendations in 2015 regarding necessary changes to the program, including reintroducing the subsidy for personal and household hygiene items.

The coalition also notes: "Access to traditional or country food is a crucial factor contributing to food security and healthy diets in Nunavut. However, many Nunavummiut do not have ready access to country food, due to lack of availability and limited opportunities and support for intercommunity shipment of traditional foods, and the high cost of hunting supplies to support harvesting."

The coalition is co-chaired by the Government of Nunavut and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and its role is to bring partners together to look at how policies and programs can make food more accessible and affordable to vulnerable Nunavummiut, stated Lindsay Turner, director of the poverty reduction division with the Department of Family Services, in an e-mail to Nunavut News/North.

Turner also said the coalition, along with the Nunavut Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, has called for greater support for land-based livelihoods, including increased support for Hunters and Trappers Organizations, harvesters and young hunter or hunter mentorship programs.

At the Nutrition North consultation, those present will be asked to discuss the Nutrition program with regard to five themes - program sustainability and cost effectiveness, fairness and consistency, transparency, visibility, and innovation.

The theme of innovation appears to have generated many similar ideas in the three communities which have had the opportunity to speak up. They range from including country foods in the program, direct subsidies to individuals or communities, and a variety of alternate ways to get nutritious foods into the hands of Northerners.

INAC Minister Carolyn Bennett has reportedly stated changes to the program may include support for traditional food.

"We believe that there will probably have to be some pilots or experiments ... in access to country food particularly, and a more traditional way of feeding families," she said.

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