UN report says Canada failing Aboriginals in providing affordable food
A United Nations (UN) food envoy said the Canadian government is failing to provide affordable healthy foods to Aboriginal people across the country.
Olivier De Schutter, United Nations’ special rapporteur on the right to food, presented his report based on findings from a May 2012 visit to Canada during a webcast seminar on March 1, which was viewed across the country.
Schutter said indigenous people in Canada have one of the highest obesity rates in Canada but the federal government is not doing much to help.
In most cases, remote First Nations communities are forced to pay double the average cost for essential foods such as milk, vegetables and fruit, making it very difficult for many to maintain a well-rounded diet.
Nutrition North Canada is a federal program aimed at subsidizing essential foods in remote communities. Attawapiskat, Bearskin Lake, Big Trout Lake, Fort Albany, Fort Severn, Weenusk, and Kashechewan are currently part of or eligible for the program.
But in his report Schutter saw some deficiencies.
“It should be better monitored to ensure that retailers do comply with the requirements to pass on the subsidiaries they receive to the beneficiaries of Nutrition North Canada,” he said. “The monitoring to me seems to be very insufficient.”
He also said the federal government needs to work better with the provinces and territories to implement similar programs.
NAN supports efforts to revise the social assistance levels to correspond with the cost of basic necessities. Based on the revised northern nutritious food basket, the cost to purchase healthy foods for one week for a family of four in NAN can be as high as $499.
However, a family of four on social assistance receives far less than that amount which makes it impossible for them to meet their basic food needs, NAN says.
“Healthy nutrition is a key factor in helping to reduce the high rates of childhood obesity and diabetes within NAN territory,” said NAN Deputy Grand Chief Goyce Kakegamic. “With support from the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, we expect.
Canada, our treaty partner, to work with us to ensure the basic human right to food is met in our communities as outlined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
Schutter also said that in Canada, one in 10 families, with at least one kid under 6, are “food insecure,” meaning they don’t know if they will eat tomorrow; welfare rates for a single person are less than the average rent for a single apartment in Ontario, leaving no money for food; and the minimum wage in Canada is not a “living wage,” meaning you cannot live and eat while earning $10 an hour, without turning to charity — a food bank and free meal programs, which are booming across this country.
Schutter presented his report to the United Nations Human Rights Council on March 4.
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