Aboriginal Food Security in Northern Canada: An Assessment of the State of Knowledge

Food insecurity presents a serious and growing challenge in Canada’s northern and remote Aboriginal communities. In 2011, off-reserve Aboriginal households in Canada were about twice as likely as other Canadian households to be food insecure. Finding lasting solutions will require the involvement not just of policy-makers but of those most affected by food insecurity: people living in the North.

In recognition of this problem, the Minister of Health, on behalf of Health Canada, asked the Council of Canadian Academies to appoint an expert panel to assess the knowledge of the factors influencing food security in the Canadian North and of the health implications of food insecurity for northern Aboriginal populations.

The Expert Panel on the State of Knowledge of Food Security in Northern Canada found that food insecurity among northern Aboriginal peoples requires urgent attention in order to mitigate impacts on health and well-being. Aboriginal Food Security in Northern Canada: An Assessment of the State of Knowledge offers policy-makers a holistic starting-point for discussion and problem-solving. It also provides evidence and options to researchers and communities engaging in local responses.

Key findings

  1. Food insecurity is a serious problem in northern and remote Aboriginal communities across Canada.
  2. Food security is a complex issue with significant implications for health and wellness.
  3. There is no single way to “solve” food security issues in the North. A range of holistic approaches is required.
  4. There is a nutrition transition taking place in the rapidly changing North.
  5. The concepts of food security and food sovereignty are equally important in understanding the problem and finding effective, multi-sectoral solutions.
  6. Many factors enable or serve as barriers to food security and food sovereignty.
  7. There is no single experience of food insecurity.
  8. There exists a strong body of research and traditional knowledge with respect to food security and northern Aboriginal health, but several knowledge gaps persist.
  9. The food security measurement methods used to date have been valuable, but their ability to respond to the complex issue of food security in the northern Canadian Aboriginal context is limited.

Question

What is the state of knowledge of the factors influencing food security in the Canadian North and of the health implications of food insecurity for Northern Aboriginal populations?

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Expert Panel

The Expert Panel on the State of Knowledge of Food Security in Northern Canada is chaired by Dr. Harriet Kuhnlein, Professor Emerita of Human Nutrition, Founding Director, Centre for Indigenous Peoples’ Nutrition and Environment (CINE), McGill University. For a complete list of panel members visit the Expert Panel on the State of Knowledge of Food Security in Northern Canada page

For further information, please contact:

Janet Bax, Program Director at 613-567-5000 ext. 267 or janet.bax@scienceadvice.ca

For media inquiries please contact:

Cate Meechan, Director of Communications at 613-567-5000 ext. 228 or cathleen.meechan@scienceadvice.ca

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"On behalf of Inuit in Canada, we welcome the release of the report and acknowledge the important evidence it presents. It reaffirms the need to address food insecurity in Inuit Nunangat and the need to involve the people and communities most impacted by food insecurity in the development of long-term solutions.”

-Joint statement by the President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Mr. Terry Audla, and President of the Inuit Circumpolar Council – Canada, Mr. Duane Smith