Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Back Off Green Peace I Just Want To Eat

I was actually going to write about this issue after I returned from my upcoming trip to Iqaluit but yesterday's post actually helps me make a better point. The culled narwhals will be used, among other things, for food for the community of Pond Inlet. Maktaq (sp?), the skin and its underlying fatty layer, is an important food source that has been consumed by Inuit for countless generations. Having so many animals trapped in this situation, while unfortunate, does provide an opportunity for local Inuit to harvest a bonanza of "country food", and, more importantly, provides food security. The issue of food security is not something faced by the North alone. People in many other parts of Canada, including any large city, also face problems of attaining a nutritious and ample food supply. As this story demonstrates, the problem of food security will likely only grow worse given the rather gloomy economic forecasts I've been hearing about.

Food security is a challenge in the North due to a number of factors, many of which are not issues in the South, or at least not to the same extent. So if you think the situation is dicey in Toronto or Vancouver, face North my friend. I guarantee you it only gets worse as you start to walk in that direction. High transportation costs, food quality and safety, high food costs, weather conditions, an increasing dependency on Southern foods, remoteness, economic and employment troubles and the increased costs associated with wildlife harvesting - all these factor into food costs up here. I know this from personal experience all too well. In one community I once lived in, I paid a whopping $23.99 for a dozen large eggs. (I made sure those were some of the best omelets I ever made, believe me.) A small brick of cheese here in town will set you back $7-$8. The talk amongst colleagues last year centred around the $32 cartons of 1.89L orange juice at one of the local stores. If you visit any of the blogs on my sidebar and read back far enough, I guarantee you the author will have a post on high food costs in there somewhere.

Of course we do have a Food Mail program here which I do make use of from time to time, and Government of Nunavut positions include a Northern Allowance to offset the cost of living. But, while these might help make food more affordable, not everyone collects a Northern Allowance. All the order forms I've ever seen for Food Mail arrive by fax so I imagine it would be a challenge for unilingual speakers to place and order. Did I mention that the faxes we get at our school for Food Mail are in French? Even with these programs in place, its still nice to have lot of choice when it comes to food and we don't always get that here.

Anyhow, this is all to say that the issue of Food Security is a big challenge in Northern communities. I'm not sure that most Canadians fully grasp how much of a problem it can be to sustain an healthy and affordable diet. (Little did I know...and it didn't take long to realize that all my supposed "solutions" simply reflected my Southern biases of the time.) I'm in no way denying these aren't serious challenges elsewhere in the country but often they are magnified ten-fold up here. Keep all this in mind when you think about narwhal being harvested for country food.

(To further illustrate my point, we didn't get a plane in this morning due to unsettled weather up at Nanisivik so the store was out of bread.)


Zach Bell said...

But you don't understand! The narwhals are god's beautiful innocent creatures and mosters like you slaughter the poor little innocent cuddly...well..hold on. What do these things even look like?

*googles "Narwhal"*

Oh god...it's...ok...kill it. Please. But if you dare raise a club to something cute and fuzzy...! Really now...you should just east some snow. You have plenty of that up there don't you?

Danged waste landers.