Christian Aboriginal Infrastructure Developments
         Sharing Capacity
                    and Information

The Nutrition North Canada Program - The Revised Food Mail Program

Indigenous societal infrastructures were dismantled and modern counterparts were not built in Canada as a result of historic policies of forced assimilation. In Canada's 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 and food gathering.

Government of Canada officials, through Indian and Norhtern Affairs Canada (INAC),* provided a mail postage subsidy program for arctic communities with Canada Post called the Food Mail Program. The goal of that 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-Indigenous commercially available food. 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 Indigenous country food infrastructure in Canada to prevent northern Indigenous 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 Indigenous People. The Government of Canada still refuses to facilitate the creation of an Indigenous 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. Withholding of knowledge and funding by INAC and elected government officials were identifiable reasons food crises in Nunavut.

In 2006, INAC initiated a review of the Food Mail Program since it had become expensive and inadequate. A 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 Indigenous country food program.

In May of 2010, INAC announced replacement of the Food Mail Program by the Nutrition North Canada Program. The new program:

  • Moved 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;
  • Shortened the list of eligible foods; and,
  • Decreases the number of eligible Aboriginal communities.

The result of INAC’s changes to the Food Mail Program:

  • Created a cartel-like monopoly for perishable food in Northern Canada controlled by large retailers and wholesalers;
  • Excluded small retailers;
  • Continued promoting and funding only commercial, corporate food supplies;
  • Continued treating Indigenous people as wards with the government choosing (listing) what foods should be eaten and therefore subsidized;
  • Subsidized “commercialized” country food only and thereby force commercialization of country food as the only option to develop a country food infrastructure;
  • Ignored Indigenous rights to develop their own food supply and infrastructure;
  • Blocked the development of a First Nation and Inuit country food infrastructure;
  • Undermined traditional community-based hunting and country food supplies that are not commercialized;
  • Made the shipping subsidy available to fewer northern communities; and,
  • Drove up the price of food.

The Nutrition North Canada Program failed to reverse crisis levels of food insufficiencies seen in northern Canada. The new program forced Indigenous people to purchase expensive “southern food” and commercial products while withholding development of local, more nutritious, country food alternatives founded on Indigenous culture and local resources.  

In March 2011, AANDC (INAC) officials began to promote their Nutrition North program by expanding the eligible food list as southern food prices in the north began to skyrocket. Officials also began to promote their inclusion of commercial country food in shipping subsidies. However, the program’s agenda and failings have not changed. It seems Inuit will either need to leave the north to feed their families or have high paying jobs to remain in their traditional territories; ie. non-Indigenous vocations such as mining. The funding disparity set by the Nutrition North prohram that disadvantages local fodd sources is referred to as selective funding.

In 2014, the Auditor General of Canada indicated AANDC had failed to deliver its goal of affordable nutritious food to isolated communities. This set in motion a program review and engagement process whose results were released in 2017. It remains to be seen if AANDC can revamp the Nutrition North program into a success.

In 2020, CIRNAC (INAC), added an $8 million/year Harvesters Support Grant with Nutrition North to help hunters provide country food in isolated, remote Indigenous communities.  Communites eligible for funding must:

  • Lack year-round surface transportation (no permanent road, rail or marine access);
  • Be reliant on air transportation for more than 8 months each year;
  • Meet the territorial or provincial definition of a northern community;
  • Have an airport, post office, or grocery store; and,
  • Have a year-round population according to the national census.

The Harvesters Support Grant is insufficient to compensate for country food harvest-based traditional ecomomies destroyed by forced assimilation policies. To restore country food infrastructures for Indigenous communities, a food-safety infrastructure is required that can be extended to all indigenous communities electing to have traditional ecomonies as part of their self-determination. 

* INAC has been renamed a number of times in the last several years but the INAC acronym is used here. (Indian and Northern Affairs Canada; Aboriginal Affairs (INAC) and Northern Development Canada (AANDC); Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada {INAC); and, in 2017 the department was split into two: Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC))

Nutrition North Canada Documents:

Related Documents:

About Us     Contact Us

© Christian Aboriginal Infrastructure Developments