Indigenous people in Canada continue to eat traditional diets obtained from hunting, fishing and gathering. The further north one travels in Canada, the more likely the majority of an Indigenous community’s diet is traditional. These traditional diets are also referred to as “country food.” The fact that country food diets are predominantly eaten in the north has created a north-south distinction in diets; southern, farm-based, market driven diets versus northern, harvest-based, country diets. In Canada’s north, southern diets are expensive and for the most part unaffordable to Indigenous people. As a consequence, there is a drive towards a northern country food infrastructure to provide affordable, nutritious ‘southern’ food. Currently, up to 56% of Inuit households in Canada’s Arctic eat less then their daily calorie requirements as defined by international organizations. 70% of preschool Inuit children in Nunavut do not have enough food to eat. Indigenous people in Canada’s Arctic are in a state of starvation. The development of a northern country food infrastructure for the harvest, inspection and delivery of safe, nutritious wildlife and fish-based diets in Canada’s arctic would instantly reverse the growing trend of Arctic starvation. The lack of a northern country food infrastructure is a direct consequence of Canada’s forced assimilation policies purposefully destroying Indigenous infrastructure. Canada continues to promote only the extension of a farm-based, market driven, southern food infrastructure into the arctic despite recommendations to build a northern country food infrastructure.
All Canadian southern, farm-based meat and commercially harvested fish are subject to a variety of regulations and inspections by both provincial and federal authorities before sale and public consumption. This regulation and inspection system is part of a food-safety veterinary infrastructure whose purpose is to lower the exposure of citizens to food-borne disease and poisonings. Country food diets are not subject to the same food-safety measures. The vast majority of communities in Canada that routinely use country food as their community’s meat and fish are Indigenous communities. Consequently, Indigenous communities in Canada are routinely eating unsecured meat and fish. A country food veterinary infrastructure that meets global food safety standards would be able to monitor fish, wild meat and wildlife for disease, creating a safe source of country food for Indigenous communities eliminating exposure to food-borne diseases such as tuberculosis and toxicoses.
Country Food Infrastructure:
Reports demonstrate that northern country food diets are healthier then southern, farm-based diets and that the creation of a northern country food infrastructure would provide a much needed base to northern Canada’s Indigenous economy. To create a country food infrastructure, that aspect of a veterinary infrastructure that regulates harvest, processing, inspection, distribution and sale of country food must be developed specifically for traditional Indigenous diets. The veterinary infrastructure necessary for the traditional country food infrastructure can be created as an extension of existing provincial and federal infrastructures such as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and provincial Agriculture and Food departments. A country food infrastructure, supported by a veterinary infrastructure, that meets the world’s safety standards for the retail of meat and fish will not only provide safe, affordable food to regional northern residents, it will also provide food products for Indigenous communities to market nationally and internationally.