EXCERPT From Hill, Bonnycastle and Thompson, 2020, page 105-1-6 Re. Food Security and COVID-19
“Before COVID-19, food insecurity on Manitoba reserves across Canada was already very high, at roughly half (50.8 percent) of households, with higher rates in northern Manitoba’s remote and rural communities at 75 percent. This high rate is getting worse with COVID-19. A recent post-COVID-19 Canadian Community Household Survey (CCHS) found 100 percent food insecurity in two remote communities, compared to 14.6 percent across Canada. Food insecurity in northern rural First Nations communities worsened under lockdown on reserves at a much higher rate than for Canada. As with other funding for COVID-19, less funding was provided for food programming to First Nations than for settlers under COVID-19.47 For example, $1 million went to Manitoba Keewatinowi
Okimakanak’s (MKO) twenty-six northern and Metis communities, which allowed access to wild food and emergency food to families who were in lockdown in their homes. In comparison, $100 million from the Canadian government went to charities to address Canadians’ urgent food needs, but not one of these charities was Indigenous. As charities require money to flow to a “qualified donee,” many barriers ensure this money remains in settler communities.
Recognizing the problem with food under lockdown, welfare cheques for First Nations in remote communities received $200 extra to afford the higher prices. The North West Company received a subsidy directly through the Nutrition North program, as part of the $2.2 billion going to Indigenous and northern communities, assuming the subsidy makes it to the people. To ensure adequate supplies of thirty-three selected healthy items, without price increases, MKO negotiated a guarantee from the North West Company.50
Clearly, at 100 percent food insecurity rates in remote communities, not enough food money is available to Indigenous people in remote
communities. Funding needs to flow to Indigenous organizations for sustainable food production/harvesting and emergency food, but
without major barriers. On-the-land education, food production, Indigenous-run food stores, community food centres, and country food programs are needed to ensure a healthy food supply.
Fisheries policy is one example where the federal government interfered with the different fisheries in northern Manitoba, making commercial fishing no longer possible in most remote communities in northern Manitoba. The federal government created a system that prevented northern Manitoba from feeding itself—as fish could only, until recently, be processed and marketed by the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation. In 2020, Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation cancelled pickerel buying, due to low demand during COVID-19, which interferes with their ability to support local fishers, who may, in turn, be unable to finance their fall fishing/hunting trip. On 14 May 2020, the prime minister announced the Fish Harvester Benefit and Fish Harvester Grant program by delaying implementation between 24 August 2020 and 21 September 2020. This funding comes too late to finance local fishing, including the nets, boats, motors, money for gas for fishing, hunting equipment, traps, etc., that are needed to ensure
local food security. Funding support is needed for fishers to get materials, as they will no longer qualify for employment insurance or make a fishing income. The work of providing fish locally should be counted as employment but does not typically count for employment insurance.”
Partnership Published Articles
- Sacred harvest, sacred place: Traditional land uses and food in Wasagamack First Nation
- Pulling in the indigenous fishery cooperative net: Fishing for sustainable livelihoods and food security in Garden Hill First Nation, Manitoba, Canada.
- COVID-19, First Nations and Poor Housing: “Wash hands frequently” and “Self-isolate” Akin to “Let them eat cake” in First Nations with Overcrowded Homes Lacking Piped Water.