For many years, the issue of food security in the northern territories has been greatly underestimated by the rest of the country. It has taken the effects of climate change to draw attention this issue.
In Jean Marie River, Northwest Territories, the impacts of climate change are becoming increasingly noticeable. Permafrost heaves have turned from solid hunting land into softer ground, with pools of water at the base of the mounds — a large concern for hunters of the region.
The community, which lies on the edge of the permafrost zone, relies on traditional food sources, such as caribou, moose, fowl, and berries, as a major part of their diet.The rapidly thawing permafrost is flooding the lichen–rich forests, and destroying the natural habit of the native animals.
Residents conducted a study on the area to determine what species may be affected by the thawing of the ten metre thick permafrost. With plants and animals being affected and non-edible invasive species taking over the landscape, food scarcity could quickly become a reality.
The costliness of shipping to the North has caused food prices to skyrocket — it now costs $13 for a small bag of flour or $26 for two litres of orange juice. This year’s Statistics Canada report, released in March, found that the food insecurity rate in Nunavut was 36.7%, four times higher than the national average in 2012. While these numbers prove to be immediate threats to Northern Canadians, they may also have long-term effects on health, and educational success.
Paired with the dismantling of Nutrition North Canada, the federal government’s subsidy program to improve access to perishable food in the North, and the defeat of a motion to reinstate the program last June, the situation looks grim.
Although the program can provide food to some communities, the program eligibility requires land-based freight travel, leaving about 46 fly-in communities that require assistance ineligible for government subsidies.
Whether or not Nutrition North Canada is the answer or if there are broad-scale solutions to solve Northern food insecurity remain unclear. However, it is necessary for Canada to respond to its Northern people and rectify the situation that they have been placed in, especially with a changing environment.