Looking Back from 2037: How Canada’s Food Revolution Began
A vision of future food democracy — and a chance to take the first critical steps to make it happen.
By Anelyse Weiler and Sophia Murphy Today | TheTyee.ca
Anelyse Weiler and Sophia Murphy are Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation scholars. Anelyse Weiler is a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto focused on agriculture, immigration and the environment (@anelysemw). Sophia Murphy is a PhD candidate at UBC’s Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability with over 20 years of international food policy experience (@foodresilience).
Image by Sandra Diaz Creative.
[Editor's note: What will Canada’s food system look like 20 years from now? What food issues will face us? The authors imagine themselves in 2037, looking back at the food policy failures of 2017. And at what they hope will be a turning point this year toward a new food future, leading to a more accessible, nourishing and sustainable food system for all.]
In 2017, Canada celebrated 150 years of Confederation. The headlines were not all congratulatory. Along with the rich and famous guests, there were protests and a contentious debate about the government’s relationship with the peoples who have lived here for more than 10,000 years. Many people pointed out the Canada was founded on violent struggle and colonialism, and the legacy still festered. One group of Indigenous peoples built a teepee on Parliament Hill (unceded Algonquin territory) as part of a reoccupation ceremony to draw attention to the crises affecting Indigenous peoples in Canada.
One of the most urgent was food insecurity and hunger, especially for remote and Northern communities. Indigenous territories and the food practices linked to those landscapes had been devastated by displacement, state-supported starvation and resource grabs by extractive industries.
Twenty years ago, one-third of First Nations reserve communities could not cook carrots for supper without worrying about the potential risks from their drinking water systems. In Nunavut, more than half of Indigenous peoplecould not access or afford nutritious food. Climate change was thinning the ice cover and altering animal migration patterns, further complicating people’s access to food.
Canada’s food system did not just fail remote regions; it also denied a political voice to the food and farm workers. Labour and immigration policies made many workers vulnerable to exploitation and human rights abuses: 2017 was the 51st year of the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, and the government was expanding related programs. Some 50,000 people of colour from poorer countries left their families for most of the year to produce Canada’s greenhouse tomatoes, wine grapes and other agricultural commodities.