A northern moment: Minister Vandal chats with Natan Obed and Aluki Kotierk about the Harvesters Support Grant (video)
Text on screen: The Government of Canada's Harvesters Support Grant, announced on April 14, 2020, was co-developed in direct collaboration with Inuit partners to improve access to traditional foods and lower the high costs of hunting and harvesting.
Natan Obed, President Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami: Food insecurity is something that we work on every day. The prevalence of food insecurity is very high across our 4 Inuit Nunangat regions. It ranges from 77.6% to 68.3% based on which particular region the stats are coming from.
Text on screen: Over two-thirds of Inuit still harvest country foods over traditional foods.
Natan Obed: To have $28.6 million flow directly to the Inuit over the next 5 years to support this Harvester Support Grant will translate into Inuit practicing our culture, harvesting animals in a sustainable way and feeding our families in a way that is much more enriching and much more healthy.
Aluki Kotierk, President of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.: Harvesting has and always will be a part of who we are. We rely on the abundance of the nature of the environment in which we live in. This is finally the way, a way in which the federal government recognizes and affirms that we do not have to change who we are to be part of Canadian society. And that there'll be support to ensure that we can become more of who we are and not have shame for being Inuit. And I would like to think that this is the beginning where young Inuit will grow up and proudly say I plan to be a hunter, I plan to be a harvester, I plan to be a seamstress, and I think this is a crucial point, tipping point in that kind of conversation and a way in which Inuit will be able to even be bigger and bolder as Inuit in Canada.
Hon. Dan Vandal: What's the long term vision for an effective harvesting support program and is there further infrastructure, are there further initiatives that the federal government could support?
Aluki Kotierk: Although I am appreciative of the Harvester Support Grant, I don't think it goes far enough and I see this as one component of a much bigger vision that we have as Inuit. I envision that we'll be able to have country food markets with, in our communities that harvesters, Inuit harvesters will be able to share and sell things that they've harvested. I envision that there'll be opportunity and space where there can be an intergenerational transference of Inuit harvesting knowledge from older Inuit to younger Inuit. I envision that there will be spaces, capital infrastructure in communities where Inuit will be able to repair harvesting equipment in a heated space. And I feel excited about what I mentioned earlier in terms of young Inuit having that as something that they can aspire to and how they can contribute to this very important harvesting economy.
Natan Obed: I imagine not only just having the self-determination around our Harvester Support Grant but also a targeted partnership in the way in which Nutrition North runs, that we can build together, that ensures that it is a social program and that it meets the needs of Inuit across Nunangat. We also have so much work that we need to do within our communities and we're in the final stages of creating a National Inuit Food Security Strategy. And it starts with food systems and well-being. So with legislation and policy, with programs and services we can create structures that improve Inuit self-determination, ensure that our food insecurity rates decrease and also have the food choices that Inuit want to see.
Hon. Dan Vandal: How can our department help you adapt to the climate change reality that's occurring?
Natan Obed: For us building infrastructure that is climate resilient and takes into consideration climate change is something that is going to be necessary for us to have sustainable communities. It also, especially with marine infrastructure will allow for Inuit to harvest and to bring those harvests to our communities in a way that's much more streamlined, much more cost efficient and much more predictable than we have now.
Aluki Kotierk: In terms of climate change it's also important in terms of the, as I said, the intergenerational land knowledge of Inuit to be transferred from Elders to young people. And so that's why I think this Harvester Support Grant will be important. As I said there'll be young Inuit aspiring to become harvesters.
Natan Obed: Harvesting isn't just going out and killing things and eating them. It is a part of the way which we understand our world and our homeland and that's vital in sustainability.
Aluki Kotierk : I would leave you with the words that I hope the federal government continues to take the innovative approach of asking Inuit what they need to meet their challenges. Thank you.
Text on screen: Thank you to our participants:
Harvesters Support Grant
Natan Obed, President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
Aluki Kotierk, President, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.
Text on screen: Video courtesy of the Movember Foundation