Monday, January 26, 2015

Deplorable State Of Survival In Nunavut As Food Program Flops

Nunavut Food Security
Israel Mablick, an Inuk father of five who can’t afford food to feed his family, looks shows the sparse selection inside his fridge. CP
Steve Rennie  The Canadian Press
Israel Mablick opens the door of his refrigerator and takes stock of its meagre offerings.

“This is all we have for food,” he says, gesturing to the mostly empty shelves.

There is a small pot of leftover seal meat on the second shelf, next to a tub of margarine and a couple of slices of bread. There’s juice, a bag of milk, some water and a carton of eggs, plus condiments and a small bag of shredded cheese.

In his freezer, there are a few bags of frozen vegetables next to a carton of Chapman’s ice cream. Two cereal boxes — Corn Pops and Corn Flakes — are the only items in one of his cupboards.

“That’s all we have,” Mablick says, “and there’s six kids.”

The 36-year-old Inuit man shares a small, two-bedroom Iqaluit apartment with his wife and their five kids, his mother, his sister and his young nephew. His is the face of hunger in Nunavut, the bare cupboards and empty fridge emblematic of a long-standing problem that even today’s government programs don’t address.

The federal government’s $60-million food subsidy, Nutrition North, is only the latest of the proposed solutions that has stumbled under mismanagement and the enormity of the hunger problem.

Whether a solution can be found is anyone’s guess. After all, food shortages are nothing new to the Inuit.

“There’s always been incidents of starvation,” said Frank Tester, an Arctic historian at the University of British Columbia.

One of the worst episodes occurred in the late 1940s and early 1950s, when a shift in caribou migration patterns caused widespread starvation in the southern interior of the Kivalliq Region to the west of Hudson Bay.

The collapse of the fox fur trade after the Second World War was devastating to the Inuit, who relied on it as a source of income to buy flour, tea, sugar, hunting traps, rifles and ammunition.

“Economically, Inuit were now in really serious trouble,” Tester said.

In some cases, Inuit were relocated to other parts of the North with more abundant natural resources.

“Inuit were moved around. The attitude was, ‘Well, you know, what the hell? They can survive any place there’s snow and caribou and foxes to be had,'” said Tester, who has studied and written about the relocations.

But such relocations proved controversial. There was a royal commission in the 1990s. Ottawa eventually agreed to pay $10 million into a trust fund to compensate the families of the Inuit who, in the 1950s, were moved 2,000 kilometres from Inukjuak in northern Quebec to what is now Resolute and Grise Fiord, the two most northerly communities in Canada

In 2010, then-aboriginal affairs minister John Duncan apologized on the government’s behalf for the Inukjuak relocations.

But having Canadian civilians in an otherwise unoccupied area bolstered Canadian sovereignty at a time when other nations — especially the United States — were expressing increasing interest in the Arctic as a possible front in the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

To monitor the continent’s northern frontier, Canada and the United States built 63 radar stations across the Arctic, stretching from Alaska to Baffin Island. The Distant Early Warning Line sites had a major impact on northern society. The stations — and the southerners who staffed them — were sometimes the first contact Inuit people had with the outside world.

A change in government policy in the 1950s and 1960s led to an upheaval of the traditional Inuit way of life, Tester said.

“By the mid-1950s, the government sort of saw what they thought was the handwriting on the wall,” he said, “that Inuit were going to have to be modernized instead of kept in their traditional lifestyle.”

Read full on Metro

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