Food sovereignty is not just about rights, but better physical health and emotional well-being

With hunting and harvesting rights being attacked, and the cost of food going up, how are First Nation, Metis and Inuit people supposed to get back to traditional eating, or make healthy food choices on a tight budget?

This week, InFocus with Host Melissa Ridgen, looked at the move towards country food including plants and animals consumed in a region by the people Indigenous to it.

The challenges faced and the alternatives out there that offer a healthy alternative to our increasing reliance on processed food.

Kayla Farquhar is a dietitian with First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba.

She says that people generally want to be healthy and eat well – but it’s about re-learning how.

“Traditional foods are very important not only culturally but nutritionally,” she said. “They generally include lean traditional meats that are high in iron and vitamins and minerals. They also include fibrous fruits and vegetables and good fatty fish.

“We want to include traditional foods as much as we can. That being said, we’re not going to be able to go 100 per cent back to traditional foods, we have to kind of consider that store bought foods are going to be a part of our lives.”

She said Canada’s new food guide is the best guide yet, and Indigenous people can also still choose to follow the 2007 Indigenous Food Guide until it’s revamped by the federal government, which is in the works.

Portion size, the ration of various foods on each meal plate (half should be fruits and vegetables) and a switch from juices and milk to water and tea are key improvements one can make.

Meanwhile, sharing traditional foods is under fire in Alberta where a Metis man has been charged with accepting fish from a Dene man. The law says First Nations hunters and fishers can only share with immediate family members.

“There have been at least five other cases of Metis people being charged in northeast Alberta,” said Dwayne Roth, a Metis lawyer in Fort McMurray who is defending this case. “In each instance, the Crown dropped the charges before it could go to trial.

“This is another one where Metis people, I feel, are being harassed for trying to exercise their rights. So we do have to mount a defence whenever this happens and try to defend the rights of our people.”

Roth said he hopes this matter goes to trial and sets a precedent for the age-old practice of food sharing.

Recently in Saskatchewan, an undercover conservation officer staged a 16 month sting to get a First Nations man to sell him $90 worth of fish. The fisher was fined $1,090.

Both the Alberta and Saskatchewan governments claim they’re protecting fish stocks.

But many question protecting the stocks from whom?

And Roth suspects it’s more about harassing indigenous people who conversation officers feel have unfair harvesting rights.

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