The community of Délı̨nę, located in the UNESCO Tsá Tué Biosphere Reserve, is experiencing the impacts of climate change on the lands surrounding Great Bear Lake, in Northwest Territories, Canada. These impacts are limiting the community's ability to access the land to support their food system, which depends on harvesting traditional foods. This article details a participatory action research approach, driven by the community, that used on-the-land activities, workshops, community meetings and interviews to develop a community food security action plan to deal with the uncertainties of a changing climate on the food system. Data was analyzed using the Community Capitals Framework (CCF) to describe the complex nature of the community's food system in terms of available or depleting capitals, as well as how the impacts of climate change affect these capitals, and the needs identified by the community to aid in adaptation. For Délı̨nę, the theme of self-sufficiency emerged out of concerns that climate change is negatively impacting supplies from the south and that building and maintaining both social and cultural capital are key to achieving food security in an uncertain future. Learning from the past and sharing Traditional Knowledge 1 was a key element of food security planning. However, other types of knowledge, such as research and monitoring of the health of the land, and building capacity of the community through training, were important aspects of adaptation planning in the community. This knowledge, in its many forms, may assist the community in determining its own direction for achieving food security, and offers a glimpse into food sovereignty in Northern regions.
Resource development and climate change are increasing concerns regarding safe water for Indigenous people in Canada. A research study was completed to characterize the consumption of water and beverages prepared with water and identify the perception of water consumption in Indigenous communities from the Northwest Territories and Yukon, Canada. As part of a larger research program, data for this study were available from a 24-hour recall dietary survey ( n = 162), a health messages survey ( n = 150), and an exposure factor survey ( n = 63). A focus group was conducted with Elders in an on-the-land camp setting. The consumption of water-based beverages in winter was 0.9 L/day on average, mainly consisting of tea and coffee. Of the 81% of respondents who reported consuming water-based beverages in the previous 24 hours of the survey, 33% drank more bottled water than tap water. About 2% of respondents consumed water from the land (during the winter season). Chlorine smell was the main limiting factor reported to the consumption of tap water. Results from the focus group indicated that Indigenous knowledge might impact both the perception and consumption of water. These findings aim to support public health efforts to enable people to make water their drink of choice.
Access to and availability of food harvested from the land (called traditional food, country food, or wild food) are critical to food security and food sovereignty of Indigenous People. These foods can be particularly difficult to access for those living in urban environments. We ask: what policies are involved in the regulation of traditional/country foods and how do these policies affect access to traditional/country food for Indigenous Peoples living in urban centers? Which policies act as barriers? This paper provides a comparative policy analysis of wild food policies across Ontario, the Northwest Territories (NWT), and the Yukon Territory, Canada, by examining and making comparisons between various pieces of legislation, such as fish and wildlife acts, hunting regulations, food premises legislation, and meat inspection regulations. We provide examples of how some programs serving Indigenous Peoples have managed to provide wild foods, using creative ways to operate within the existing system. While there is overwhelming evidence that traditional/country food plays a critical role for the health and well-being of Indigenous Peoples within Canada, Indigenous food systems are often undermined by provincial and territorial wild food policies. Provinces like Ontario with more restrictive policies may be able to learn from the policies in the Territories. We found that on a system level, there are significant constraints on the accessibility of wild foods in urban spaces because the regulatory food environment is designed to manage a colonial market-based system that devalues Indigenous values of sharing and reciprocity and Indigenous food systems, particularly for traditional/country foods. Dismantling the barriers to traditional/country food access in that system can be an important way forward.
Abstract Warming temperatures in the circumpolar north have led to new discussions around climate-driven frontiers for agriculture. In this paper, we situate northern food systems in Canada within the corporate food regime and settler colonialism, and contend that an expansion of the conventional, industrial agriculture paradigm into the Canadian North would have significant socio-cultural and ecological consequences. We propose agroecology as an alternative framework uniquely accordant with northern contexts. In particular, we suggest that there are elements of agroecology that are already being practiced in northern Indigenous communities as part of traditional hunter-gatherer food systems. We present a framework for agroecology in the North and discuss its components of environmental stewardship, economies, knowledge, social dimensions and governance using examples from the Dehcho region, Northwest Territories, Canada. Finally, we discuss several challenges and cautions in creating policy around agroecology in the North and encourage community-based research in developing and testing this framework moving forward.
Communities in Canada’s Northwest Territories (NWT) are at the forefront of the global climate emergency. Yet, they are not passive victims; local-level programs are being implemented across the region to maintain livelihoods and promote adaptation. At the same time, there is a recent call within global governance literature to pay attention to how global policy is implemented and affecting people on the ground. Thinking about these two processes, we ask the question: (how) can global governance assist northern Indigenous communities in Canada in reaching their goals of adapting their food systems to climate change? To answer this question, we argue for a “community needs” approach when engaging in global governance literature and practice, which puts community priorities and decision-making first. As part of a collaborative research partnership, we highlight the experiences of Ka’a’gee Tu First Nation, located in Kakisa, NWT, Canada. We include their successes of engaging in global network building and the systemic roadblock of lack of formal land tenure. Moreover, we analyze potential opportunities for this community to engage with global governance instruments and continue connecting to global networks that further their goals related to climate change adaptation and food sovereignty.
This paper reports the findings of an ethnographic study that involved working with local organizations, food advocates, and communities to develop strategies for expanding the nascent Northwest Territories (NWT), Canada agri-food industry. The NWT represents a unique case study in that the fledging agri-food industry has been recognized for its promise in contributing to the core goals of the transitioning NWT food system. The study is guided by two research questions: (1) How is the promise of the emerging NWT agri-food industry framed within the context of the broader food system? (2) Given this framing of the NWT agri-food industry, how can it contribute to the sustainability of the NWT food system and to the goals of food security, poverty reduction, nutrition, and economic development? Grounded in a food systems approach, we used a correlative, evolutionary SWOT analysis to profile the nascent NWT agri-food industry within the context of the existing NWT food system. Through further thematic analysis, we identify and describe two dominant narratives (agri-food industry business case narrative and agri-food industry implications narrative) and key themes within the narratives based on an adapted food systems framework. The agri-food business case narrative highlights discourse articulating the business or commercial viability for a local agri-food value chain to function, evolve, and expand. The agri-food industry implications narrative envisions the ways in which the emerging NWT agri-food industry may interact within the existing NWT food system, highlighting potential environmental, social, cultural, and political implications of an expanding commercial-based agri-food value chain. Within the two narratives, certain subcomponents of the NWT agri-food system appear to be more prevalent, including climate, soil, and ecosystems, policy/regulations/governance, socio-cultural norms, knowledge, inputs, finance, production, and consumption. We make policy and practice recommendations for co-designing an agri-food industry that serves the multiple goals of the NWT food system. As an exploratory, descriptive-structural analysis the study provides a critical empirical basis for future in-depth, fully integrated synthesis of the complex social, cultural, economic, political, and ecological dynamics shaping Northern food systems in transition.
Abstract Background Through their support of local agriculture, relationships, and healthy diets, farmers markets can contribute to a sustainable food system. Markets like the Yellowknife Farmers Market (YKFM) are social spaces that support local food, yet the COVID-19 pandemic has forced changes to their current model. We explore the potential of online marketplaces to contribute to a resilient, sustainable food system through a case study of the YKFM. Methods In 2019, a collaborative mixed-method evaluation was initiated by the YKFM and university partners in the Northwest Territories (NWT), Canada. The evaluation included an in-person Rapid Market Assessment dot survey and questionnaire of market patrons from two YKFM dates prior to the pandemic. Due to COVID-19, a vendor survey and interviews were deferred. Data collected from the two patron surveys, alongside researcher observations, available literature, public announcements, and informal email and phone discussions, inform the discussion. Results For the patron surveys, 59 dot survey and 31 questionnaire participants were recruited. The top motivators for attendance were eating dinner, atmosphere, and supporting local businesses, and most patrons attended as couples and spent over half of their time talking to others. The YKFM did not move online; instead, they proposed and implemented a “Shop, don’t stop” market. Informal conversations suggested the small scale of the market and technology challenges were perceived barriers to moving online. The physically-distanced market was well-attended and featured in local media. Conclusions NWT food strategies rely on farmers markets to nurture a local food system. Data suggest a potential incongruence between an online model and important market characteristics such as the event-like atmosphere. Available literature suggests online markets can support local food by facilitating purchasing and knowledge-sharing, yet they do not replicate the open-air or social experience. The decision not to move online for the YKFM reflects market patron characteristics and current food context in Yellowknife and the NWT. While online adaptation does not fit into the YKFM plan today, online markets may prove useful as a complementary strategy for future emerging stressors to enhance the resiliency of local systems.
Since we first conceived of this Special Issue, “Levering Sustainable Food Systems to Address Climate Change—Possible Transformations”, COVID-19 has turned the world upside down [...]
Abstract Background Through their support of local agriculture, relationships, and healthy diets, farmers’ markets can contribute to a sustainable food system. Markets like the Yellowknife Farmers Market (YKFM) are social spaces that support local food, yet the COVID-19 pandemic has forced changes to their current model. This paper explores the potential of online marketplaces to contribute to a resilient, sustainable food system and the barriers to making this transition for the YKFM. Methods In 2019, a collaborative mixed-method evaluation was initiated by the YKFM and university partners in the Northwest Territories (NWT), Canada. The co-created evaluation plan included two patron surveys, a vendor survey and vendor interviews. The evaluation began with an in-person Rapid Market Assessment dot survey and questionnaire of market patrons from two YKFM dates prior to the pandemic. Due to COVID-19, we determined it was not a good time to conduct the vendor survey and interviews. Ongoing engagement with the market facilitated an assessment of the COVID-19 response. Results For the patron surveys, 59 dot survey and 31 questionnaire participants were recruited. The top motivators for attendance were eating dinner, atmosphere, and supporting local businesses, and most patrons attended as couples and spent over half of their time talking to others. The YKFM did not move online, citing concerns about meeting produce demand, incongruence between the online model and market strengths, low dependency on the YKFM by vendors, and potential challenges for patrons using new technology. Conclusions NWT food strategies rely on farmers’ markets to nurture a local food system. Online markets can support local food by facilitating purchases and knowledge-sharing, yet they do not replicate the open-air or social experience. Challenges to the online transition reflect the survey findings and current food context in the NWT. While online adaptation does not fit into the YKFM plan today, online markets may prove useful as a complementary strategy for future emerging stressors to enhance the resiliency of local systems.
Délįnę, a community of approximately 600 people, is located in Canada’s Northwest Territories. This small Indigenous community is the only settlement on Great Bear Lake, one of the largest and most pristine freshwater lakes in the world. The lake and the surrounding landscape play an important role in the lives of the Sahtúot’ine Dene, or Bear Lake People. It is a source of spiritual well-being and the basis of the community’s food system and livelihood. Délįnę̨ depends on traditional food from activities like hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering from the surrounding boreal forest ecosystem. The alternative is expensive food from the local stores which is often unhealthy, over-packaged and not fresh. Now the impacts of climate change are also having negative impacts on the food system creating yet another barrier to accessing the land for food. The community is actively implementing self-government, which took effect in 2016, has been implementing numerous programs aimed at benefiting the community, creating economic opportunities and employment, and adapting to the impacts of climate change. Délįnę̨ is not immune to the impacts of COVID-19, with the territorial government closing borders to all travelers and implementing social distancing measures including working from home. The Canadian Federal government announced support for Indigenous communities being out on the land during this time. So those who have the means to, meaning access to tools and transportation, left the community and are social distancing at cabins or camps around the lake. For many, it is an ideal way to pass the time, being on the land and reconnecting to cultural and traditional practices. But for others, who don’t have access to transportation (a snowmobile, or boat if the weather was warmer) or a cabin or camp on the lake, find themselves stranded in town. With jobs and activities closed or winding down, many community members are finding it difficult to cope with the new realities that this pandemic has brought. While COVID-19 has put a pause on activity in the community, it offers time to reflect on community projects and priorities. For many, those with jobs, the pressures of employment and participating in the formal economy have been decreased and they are now able to spend more time immersed in traditional activities and cultural practices. But for others, it shows the barriers to accessing traditional food sources. These barriers are the result of decades of colonialism and trauma resulting from forced assimilation and policies that have eroded and interrupted ancient old intergenerational lines of knowledge transfer and flow. This loss of connection to rich histories, knowledge and, most importantly, language and spirituality, has been detrimental to the community’s overall health and makes many people in Délı̨nę vulnerable to COVID-19. This pandemic has created a state of nostalgia and deja-vu in the community. As all the false senses of security in the settlement begin to fall away, many in the community are realizing what is truly important. It is not a coincidence that the first response to the declaration of a global state of emergency was to go back to the Land. It was instinct. The traditional way of life provides the ability to both survive and thrive on the land. The complex and rich knowledge system holds all the information and skills needed to take care of the community including the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects. However, resources and programming are needed to support the most vulnerable in the community, and particularly the youth who are the future leaders of Délįnę. More opportunities to learn traditional skills and cultural practices, better access to training and tools, and mentorship and support to learn the language and spiritual connections to the land are key pillars of the community working together to address these challenges. In other words, the way forward is to strengthen and preserve the way of being as Dene and remember again how to walk in the footsteps of grandfathers and grandmothers. This is the message from the community’s Prophets, Elders, and Ancestors and the very message that has echoed through eternity since the beginning of time: Hold on to your way of life and hold on to the Land and you will have a good life in the future for yourselves and for your children.
Abstract In the context of the growing climate emergency and the negative social and environmental impacts of the industrial food system, significant attention is focused on the question of how we will feed ourselves sustainably. Small-scale fisheries are receiving more attention and communities are increasingly resisting a resourcist perspective that treats fish as a commodity by engaging in efforts to (re)envision fisheries as part of food systems. This paper presents four case studies from freshwater and marine fisheries across Canada to demonstrate ways of using food systems as an organizing concept to protect small-scale fisheries, build sustainable communities, and influence fisheries governance and policy. Insights are shared from the lobster fishery in Shelburne County, Nova Scotia; fish and country foods harvesting in Kakisa, Northwest Territories; traditional fisheries of Batchewana First Nation on Lake Superior, Ontario; and the national sustainable seafood partnership program, SeaChoice. We conclude by providing our collective ideas for how governance and policy may better support sustainability at the nexus of fisheries and food systems, emphasizing a need for structures and policies that are better adapted to the contexts of small-scale fisheries and that empower community participation in decision-making.
This paper explores how Canadian federal policy and frameworks can better support community-based initiatives to reduce food insecurity and build sustainable food systems in the North. Through an examination of the current state of food systems infrastructure, transportation, harvest, and production in the Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Nunavik, and Nunatsiavut, we argue in favour of a multi-sector approach that supports diversified food systems, including traditional/country food production and distribution, in a way that values and prioritizes community-led initiatives and Indigenous peoples’ self-determination and self-governance. The challenge of developing sustainable, northern food systems requires made-in-the-North solutions that are attuned to cultural, geographic, environmental, and political contexts. Recent policy developments suggest some progress in this direction, however much more work is needed. Ultimately, sustainable northern food systems must be defined by and for Northerners at community, local, and regional levels, with particular attention paid to treaty rights and the right to self-determination of First Nations and other Indigenous communities.