The Nutrition North Canada Program in Canada - The Revised Food Mail Program (2010)
Aboriginal societal infrastructures were destroyed by Canada’s Department of Indian
and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) through a policy of forced assimilation. With
respect to the arctic, the evolution of modern Inuit Country Food infrastructure
was destroyed by forced community relocations and the killing of thousands of sled
dogs used in transportation.
The Government of Canada, through INAC, provided a mail postage subsidy program through
Canada Post called the Food Mail Program. The goal of the program was to reduce the
cost of shipping nutritious, perishable food to isolated northern communities. However,
these subsidies were only available for the shipping of “southern” non-Aboriginal
commercially available food. The Inuit have cried out for the development of an Inuit
country food infrastructure for a number of years. In 2009, under the Access to Information
Act, CAID obtained a 2002 study commissioned by INAC that recommended the immediate
creation of a northern Aboriginal country food infrastructure in Canada to prevent
northern Aboriginal food shortages and create a base for the northern economy. INAC
did not act on the study’s recommendations and did not release the study’s findings
to Aboriginal Peoples. The Government of Canada still refuses to facilitate the creation
of an Aboriginal country food infrastructure. In 2010, a health study was published
showing the availability of nutritious food in the North has reached crisis levels
leaving up to 70% of preschool Inuit children in Nunavut without enough food to eat.
The withholding of knowledge and funding by INAC and the current Conservative Government
of Canada are the only discernable reasons for the current food crisis in Nunavut.
In 2006, INAC initiated a review of the Food Mail Program since it had become expensive
and woefully inadequate. The final report of that review was never released. Under
pressure, INAC released interim reports including one by the Minister of INAC’s special
representative who recommended the creation of a pilot Aboriginal country food program.
In May of 2010, INAC announced the replacement of the Food Mail Program by the Nutrition
North Canada Program. The new program:
- Moves from a general transportation subsidy to a shipping subsidy only available
to large retailers and wholesalers;
- Allows large retailers and wholesalers to receive the shipping subsidy on northern
country food products only if they are commercial products;
- Shortens the list of eligible foods; and,
- Decreases the number of eligible Aboriginal communities.
The result of INAC’s changes to the Food Mail Program will:
- Create a cartel-like monopoly for perishable food in Northern Canada controlled by
large retailers and wholesalers;
- Exclude small retailers;
- Continue promoting and funding only commercial, corporate food supplies;
- Continue treating Aboriginal people as wards with the government choosing (listing)
what foods should be eaten and therefore subsidized;
- Subsidize “commercialized” country food only and thereby force commercialization
of country food as the only option to develop a country food infrastructure;
- Ignore Aboriginal rights to develop their own food supply and infrastructure;
- Block the development of a First Nation and Inuit country food infrastructure;
- Undermine traditional community-based hunting and country food supplies that are
- Make the shipping subsidy available to fewer northern communities; and,
- Drive up the price of food.
The Nutrition North Canada Program will fail to reverse the crisis level of starvation
currently seen in northern Canada. The new program will still force Aboriginal people
to purchase expensive “southern food” and commercial products while withholding the
development of local, more nutritious, country food alternatives founded on Aboriginal
culture and resources. It seems First Nations and Inuit in Northern Canada will not
be given access to an affordable food infrastructure unless they leave their land
and move to the south.
In March 2011, INAC began to promote its Nutrition North program by expanding the
eligible food list as southern food prices in the north began to skyrocket. INAC
also began to promote its inclusion of commercial country food in shipping subsidies.
However, the program’s agenda and failings have not changed. Canada is apparently
trying to stop the use of readily accessible “free” nutritious country food and replace
it with expensive food. It seems the Inuit will either need to leave the north to
feed their families or have high paying jobs to remain; non-Aboriginal vocations
such as mining. This is what the process of forced assimilation by a policy referred
to as selective funding looks like. It is hard to believe that Canada’s policy of
assimilation ended with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s apology in 2008 when the
Nutrition North program looks the way it does.
Nutrition North Canada Documents:
© Christian Aboriginal Infrastructure Developments
Last Updated September 15, 2015