The land that is now known as Canada has been home to distinct Indigenous nations from coast-to-coast for millennia. Prior to European contact, these thriving nations were part of sophisticated networks of communities that spanned Turtle Island.
European colonization affected Indigenous communities through disease, conflict, and dispossession of land. Canada became an independent country in 1867 and many discriminatory government policies were inflicted on Indigenous nations including targeting their most vulnerable population: their children. Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister, described the efforts and creation of Residential institutions (schools) to “take the Indian out of the child.” Many inhumane acts were performed to ensure cultural and identity loss, and assimilation into western society. The last residential institution (school) closed in 1996.
In 2008, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) was created to amplify the stories of the survivors and communities affected. The TRC report was published in 2015, detailing the realities of residential schools and the intergenerational trauma remaining amongst communities. This report also includes 94 calls to action which are recommendations for reconciling Indigenous Nations and Canada. Still healing from the effects of colonialism, many Indigenous communities are making significant strides towards self-determination, self-governance, and advocacy for land-repatriation.
There are contemporary issues and barriers that Indigenous Nations still face in Canada. The poverty rates for the general population steadily declined between 2015 and 2020. According to the 2021 census, First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people still face a much higher prevalence. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, current inflation, and the cost-of-living crisis are still being felt by the communities. A survey in May 2020, suggested that there was a 39 percent increase in household food insecurity, especially for Indigenous people living on reserve.
Where CFTC works in Canada
CFTC currently works in partnership with Indigenous communities across Turtle Island. From the Northwest Territories to New Brunswick in the east, CFTC partners with communities that face food security challenges to help achieve their food sovereignty goals.
Food security challenges are different in each community and can be influenced by several factors. These can include whether they have fly-in or drive-in access, how much access they have to their traditional lands, and employment opportunities, among others.
Rural and remote communities are particularly challenged by high prices of food compared to urban centres, an issue that has only compounded as food prices rise across the country. This has resulted in almost half of all Indigenous families in Canada facing difficulty putting enough food on the table, according to the First Nations Food, Nutrition and Environment Study. Families with children are even more likely to struggle.
When it comes to accessing traditional food, more than half of Indigenous adults say harvesting food has become more difficult because of industry in their territories and climate change.
In some communities, food sources like fish and game have been found to have high levels of lead and mercury making them unsafe to eat.
It is estimated that 20 percent of all Indigenous adults have diabetes, which is triple the national average of non-Indigenous Canadians.
With Indigenous communities in the lead, when you donate to CFTC you’re helping provide funding for affordable, culturally-appropriate nutritious food, thriving agricultural and local food systems, Indigenous-led land and water stewardship, land-based education that rebuilds Indigenous knowledge across generations and more.