This year’s theme for World Food Day is “Nourish, Grow, Sustain. Together.” The BC Assembly of First Nations (BCAFN) is calling for global solidarity to help all populations, and especially the most vulnerable, to recover from the pandemic crisis, and to make food systems more resilient and robust so they can withstand increasing volatility and climate shocks, deliver affordable and sustainable healthy diets for all, and decent livelihoods for food system workers.
First Nations people in BC are well acquainted with food insecurity and barriers to achieving food sovereignty as colonial diets were imposed upon contact and enforced through various racist policies and legislation. Traditional foodways were disrupted and in some cases, caused extinction of some species and increasing endangerment of others. A salient example of racist policy that innately affected Indigenous food systems is the mandated execution of dog teams and hunting dogs, making it more difficult to harvest from the land.
Today, overfishing, climate change and unsustainable aquaculture dispossess First Nations of salmon- a vital cultural and nutritional resource. Diminishing caribou herd populations can also be attributed to damaged lichen, a food source that caribou rely on and that is highly sensitive to climate change. Many other traditional foods for First Nations in BC are under threat because of colonization’s effects on ecosystems and biodiversity.
Imposition of colonial diets has resulted in higher rates of chronic diet-related health complications in First Nations people such as diabetes which can exacerbate other illnesses. These disruptions also serve as a form of cultural genocide because of the interruption in the relationship between the land, animals, waters and the people. BCAFN applauds First Nations for their resilience in keeping their traditional foodways alive and for taking steps to manage the environment and wildlife in their territories to provide for generations to come.
It is time for Canada and the Province of BC to recognize that the charity model of improving food security is not a model that is effective, efficient, culturally appropriate nor dignified. As Canada executes its first ever National Food Policy, dignity and cultural continuity for Indigenous peoples must be at the forefront. Funding that is specific to First Nations, not to food banks, is needed to address food security in communities. COVID-19 provides an opportunity to reinvent our food system, with increased First Nations agricultural operators, inclusive food retailing policies, funding for harvesting equipment and full implementation of the rights to harvest.
For more information visit World Food Day Canada