A study from the Canadian Medical Association has pointed out what Nunavummiut have suspected for years – there are more people who go hungry in Nunavut after the federal Nutrition North food subsidy program was implemented in 2011 than before it existed.
The clinical phrase for hunger is “food security” and in 2010, just before Nutrition North replaced the previous Food Mail subsidy, 33.1 per cent of Nunavut residents went hungry at some point in the year.
By 2014, that hunger rate had jumped to 46.6 per cent – a 13 per cent hike in four years.
Researchers used data from 3,250 households in Nunavut.
“Inuit Canadian children are going to bed hungry every night, in Canada,” explained Aluki Kotierk, president of Nunavut Tunngavik.
Tunngavik is the land claims organization that represents Nunavut Inuit.
“Once you explain that the federal government has enough reports to collaborate that information, they have a duty to address that issue and it doesn’t matter who is in power,” added Kotierk.
Recent history has shown that Kotierk is right, it hasn’t mattered who is in power.
Nutrition North was introduced in 2011 by the Stephen Harper Conservatives.
Prior to being elected, the program was a favourite target of Liberal politicians.
When the Liberals took power, they didn’t scrap the program, they expanded it to include more communities which is what they said they would do during the campaign.
The Liberals also sent MP Yvonne Jones to Iqaluit late last year to announce some additions to the program.
Sitting in her office, Kotierk has a large polar bear skin on her wall and is wearing large, puffy fur earrings also made from polar bear.
When it comes to hunters, her appreciation is clear.
One of the additions Jones announced was support for hunters who provide food to their communities.
“Inuit harvesters currently contribute in immense ways,” she said. “One of the great downfalls is that they are not acknowledged enough in any program and Nutrition North certainly doesn’t acknowledge that.
“I think we don’t do a good enough job of acknowledging the great contribution that harvesters make in our lives.”
Tunngavik plays a huge role in Nunavut’s complex wildlife management regime.
While some stocks are high, there is a heavy limit on how many caribou can be hunted on Baffin Island, due to low stocks.
When asked if she was worried that subsidized hunting could hurt existing stocks, Kotierk puts her faith in Inuit wildlife management.
“I think that kind of fear mongering, I would say, is something that would go against Inuit culture. Any time Inuit want to assert who they are, people start raising those types of questions. Questioning whether or not we’re entitled to live and be who we are,” she said.
“I would say Inuit hunters are already contributing, let’s recognize it formally, and let’s support it formally.”
Read the Study:
Facing a hungry child you can’t feed is devastating in every way.
According to Kotierk, it also adds to the many problems –both historical and current- Inuit deal with.
“It’s important to highlight, to remind people, that it is nobodies deliberate intention to not provide food, and we already have so much shame. This is just another layer.
“I would implore the federal government to restore dignity and work in really good faith to insure we are looking at the wellness and healthy households of Inuit families,” said Kotierk, tears beginning to well in the corners of her eyes.