Communities brace as Nutrition North’s harvesters support grant about to be cut

Some communities in the north are bracing for cuts to a federal program that helps make hunting and food gathering a little more affordable.

According to Northern Affairs Canada, the Harvesters Support Grant and Community Food Programs Fund, under the Nutrition North Program, will have its budget cut in early 2024.

The chief of Old Crow in Yukon said the federal government should be increasing its financial support of the program, not ending it.

“It’s a really great program,” said Pauline Frost. “I think it’s great but I also look at inflation and I look at cost of living in the north and I look at subsidies like this that’s meant to bring some equity to individuals in our communities. It’s difficult when we have a federal program that hasn’t increased with the cost-of-living adjustments or inflation. It’s still sitting back in 2021 and we’re pushing on 2024.

“Fuel prices have increased, we see prices of food increase because of course we fly everything into our community.”

Canada is expected to scale back support of the program by 80 per cent – from $40 million a year ago to just $8 million when the program ends on March 31, 2024.

The federal government said it’s not scaling back – but ending the “time-limited funding” that started in 2021.

“Based on current authorization, the Harvesters Support Grant program will provide $8 million per year on an ongoing basis to Indigenous recipients, including all four regional Inuit land claims organizations,” said a response from Northern Affairs Canada. “We continue to work with northern and Indigenous partners to ensure continued funding for food security programs.”

The harvester’s program provides financial assistance for harvesters including money for equipment and the sharing of harvested food, meant to support food security in rural communities.

Frost said communities supported by the program have some of the highest food prices in Canada.

“A comprehensive review needs to be conducted, on one the harvester program and (two) the Nutrition North initiative across the North and the communities most impacted need to be supported and there has to be equity.”

According to the Nutrition North website, Old Crow received $443,908 over the last two years. Nutrition North overseas the harvester’s program.

The largest amount, $29.8 million, went to Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., which covers all of Nunavut’s 25 municipalities.

Beth Kotierk, who resigned her seat on the federal government’s Nutrition North advisory committee of Canada’s support of Israel, said a lot of people didn’t see the program as a food security initiative.

“I’ve been told to think about the Nutrition North subsidy as a transportation subsidy rather than specifically for nutrition,” she said. “I just can’t really agree with it, in that case I think we should name it what it is. We should call it the Northern Transport Subsidy and not pretend it’s meant to aid food insecurity in the north.”

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