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Ending hunger in Inuit communities is possible. Here’s how

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The Inuit Nunangat Food Security Strategy identifies objectives and actions within five priority areas. Ambitious and coordinated action within these priority areas is necessary to address the drivers of food insecurity. © ITK

Most Canadians would agree that it is morally unacceptable that the vast majority of Inuit experience food insecurity in our homeland. An individual who lacks reliable access to affordable food is denied a basic human right. And yet there is currently no federal policy in place to put an end to food insecurity in Inuit Nunangat. 

As we walk the challenging path of reconciliation, Canadians are becoming increasingly aware of the true costs of the inequities faced by Indigenous peoples. I have hope that Canada will work with Inuit to take ambitious actions to support Inuit‐determined solutions for tackling these inequities, in particular the stark and difficult reality of Inuit food insecurity. 

Inuit food systems (all the processes involved in feeding people, from harvesting to transportation to distribution and consumption) are different than anywhere else in Canada. The majority of Canadians have likely not experienced the distinct fragility unique to our food supply networks, which stretch over thousands of kilometres inaccessible by ground transport. And families living in major urban centres probably cannot fully appreciate the impact of infrastructure deficits, and how they contribute to our sky high cost of living and food prices. 

Without this understanding, it is challenging to develop effective public policy that addresses the complex factors driving our elevated rates of food insecurity or to address the influence of poverty on these rates. Simply put, access to affordable, safe, and nutritious food by Inuit will remain out of reach until Inuit are in a position to shape a concrete, distinctions‐based, whole‐of‐government approach to food security. We must replace the current patchwork of disconnected policy approaches that perpetuate hunger. 

The Inuit Nunangat Food Security Strategy, released this past July, is a decisive, comprehensive, and constructive road map forward. The Strategy lays out the context of Inuit food insecurity in our homeland and outlines the groundwork needed to take the necessary actions that will ultimately help end Inuit food insecurity and ensure our unique food system is sustainable, and designed by our people to meet our needs. 

The journey we must take to end Inuit food insecurity promises multiple, long‐lasting benefits improving Inuit health outcomes. The visionary approach of this Strategy guides us past disjointed and insufficient half‐measures and allows us to make the morally unacceptable social inequity of food insecurity a painful memory that we can overcome together. 

The federal government has shown support for the Strategy through the Inuit‐Crown Partnership Committee. I believe most Parliamentarians recognize that the current state of Inuit food insecurity is a blight on our country. The future we envision is one in which our unique Inuit food system serves as the critical part of Inuit cultural and economic life that it should be. 

Natan Obed 
President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami 

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