Sunday, 27 February 2011

inter-community trade in food staples in Nunavut

The other day I heard a debate in the Nunavut Legislative Assembly regarding inter-community exchange of food staples (also called, country foods) in the context of the "new" food mail program to kick in in April of this year and the response I heard was that meats and country foods (we would define them as "food staples" in the circumpolar world) would require Canadian Food Inspection Agency certification in order to be shipped and exchanged between Nunavut communities. But there are no CFIA food inspectors in Nunavut!

With the political unrest in much of the Arab world and how that's affecting world oil prices, and the effects of climate change we're already feeling in the Arctic regions (it's more that it's kind of difficult to go out hunting in dangerous, unpredictable weather than availability of prey animals at any given time), it got me thinking about how governments in other countries such as Greenland and Alaska deal with food inspection. I think in Nuuk, Greenland, there is a long-standing tradition of market for country foods...

In Canada, everything (well, except country foods) has to be shipped or flown in to the Arctic, and there is a long-standing practice here of ignoring the development of markets for locally produced and locally producable goods and all the while, our natural resources are exploited or slated for exploitation without us. "Development" in general as an issue of significance for Inuit (be it social, political or commercial) so far has left out the most important factor in the equation, the Inuit themselves.

We are being administered to death and extinction by "cradle to grave" welfare as a society. We are treated as an ersatz society with ersatz education in an ersatz economy.

We deserve better.

The Canadian governments (Nunavut and federal) should be making effective and real (ie, not fake) investment in Inuit and regional development first or at least in tandem with resource development and extraction. We are subsistance users of renewable resources, meaning that we do not and should continue trying not to take more than is necessary. If there is some "noble savage" in us, it is our long, long tradition of subsistance existence. It is not a bad thing but a necessary thing given our sensitive and fragile environment and its perpetual need for wise stewardship.

I would suggest to my readers that making locally-owned and -managed development of inter-community trade in food staples and other goods a government priority is the wise thing to do. Help us develop our local economies, give us a fighting chance at real education, invest in developing human capital locally because, as our leaders intimated recently, the Arctic is the next big thing. The world will be watching.


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