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The People's Inquiry on Suicide
United Nations raises concern on hunger among Indigenous communities
"… the situation of Aboriginal peoples in Canada raises specific concerns" says the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter while visiting Canada on May 16, 2012.
Not long ago, while in Kashachewan First Nations, an isolated First Nation along the James Bay Coast, I was working with a woman who wanted to try a new recipe, but noted that her family was very diabetic. I offered up a recipe of my own, chicken legs, tomatoes, and rice. Together we shopped for the ingredients at the only store in the community, and for her family of six, spent close to $70 on this meal.
A recent visit from De Schutter called for changes to the way First Nations access food. The first of these would be a reform of the Nutrition North Canada program that subsidizes retailers to serve remote communities. He then called for a structural approach to tackling the socio-economic and cultural barriers to opportunities for those living on reserves that result in their not enjoying fully their right to adequate food. Finally, De Schutter notes that neither the federal Government nor the provinces consider that they have a responsibility to support off-reserve Aboriginal peoples in overcoming the structural discrimination they face; often leading to poverty.
The First Nations Regional Longitudinal Health Survey (RHS 2008/10) indicates that 17.8% of First Nation adults aged 25-39 and 16.1% of First Nation adults aged 40-54 reported being hungry but did not eat due to lack of money for food. Comparably, only 7.7% of Canadian households were considered food insecure during 2007-2008.
De Schutter concluded his United Nations visit by sharing the following insights: “What I’ve seen in Canada is a system that presents barriers and for the poor to access nutritious diets and that tolerates increased inequalities between rich and poor, and Aboriginal non-Aboriginal peoples.”
The Mennonite Central Committee in Ontario, continue to work in partnership with First communities in the Far North, with the goal being Sustainable, and nutritious options. Whether it is connecting local farmers in Timmins, ON to Health Services in Attawapiskat, or connecting St. Jacobs Mennonite Church to the King Fisher Lakes community garden, both are working, through community leadership, to access sustainable food.
For more info contact:
Lyndsay Mollins Koene
Aboriginal Neighbour Coordinator
Standing with First Peoples - engaging ourselves, and taking the time to understand the connections between the history, culture and the land belonging to Indigenous people.