Minister of Health Fights Back
The one cabinet member who agreed to meet with De Schutter was Health Minister Aglukkaq. She comes from Gjoa Haven in Nunavut, so might have been expected to understand his concern for the desperate situation of so many of Canada’s northern peoples. After meeting with the envoy, she was quoted by CBC News:
He’s ill-informed. I found it a bit patronizing and [just] another academic studying us from afar who’s going to make comments about the challenges that we have.
[Food insecurity is] about the fights that we have with groups like [the] European Union that want to stop the seal hunt and/or [the] Pew Foundation who wants to put a moratorium on fishing and/or the polar bear activists.
We continue to live off the land, eat the seal meat, eat the polar bear meat and whatnot. And the collective implications of environmentalists, activists, whether it be the fish plus the seal plus the bear, leaves very little for us as Inuit and Aboriginal people of Canada’s Arctic with very little to eat.
It’s about fighting environmentalists that try and put a stop to our way of life, our way of life and hunting, to provide for our families.
Inuit and First Nations Leaders Support the Visit
The Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Inuit Circumpolar Council, who also met with the Special Rapporteur, presented a very different view in their submission:
[T]the current inability for a significant portion of Inuit to access safe, sufficient, nutritionally adequate, and socially acceptable food is undermining the well being of the population and the very integrity of the culture. Although the health of Canadian Aboriginal Peoples has been identified as a pressing issue, action to address the right to food in Inuit communities is insufficient. Immediate intervention is needed through the collaborative engagement of various levels of government, Inuit organizations and communities to develop a resolution if the situation is to be improved.
The Assembly of First Nations National Chief “expressed gratitude to Dr. Olivier De Schutter, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, for engaging with First Nations leaders and communities in gathering information regarding food security particularly in northern communities.”
Minister Aglukkaq may speak for government, but she is out of touch with the people she supposedly represents.
Photo credits: 1,3 and 4 Thinkstock; Photo 2 from Walter Schwabe (@fusedlogic) via Flickr Creative Commons
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