Aglukkaq slams UN envoy’s agenda on the right to food

Nunavut MP questions his stance “on uninformed, international attacks on the seal and polar bear hunt”


“As an aboriginal person from the North, I was insulted that Mr. Schutter chose to ‘study’ us, but chose not to ‘visit’ us,” says Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq’s May 16 statement on the visit of the UN’s special rapporteur on the right to food. (FILE PHOTO)

Leona Aglukkaq, Nunavut’s MP and federal health minister, said she was “insulted” that the United Nation’s special rapporteur on the right to food “chose to ‘study’ us, but chose not to ‘visit’ us,” in a May 16 statement, issued after she called him “ill informed” and “patronizing” earlier that day.

After an 11-day visit to Canada, Olivier De Schutter said in his May 16 “end of mission” statement that “Canada is in need of a national right to food strategy.”

“Many aboriginal communities expressed concerns regarding federal government policies that have disrupted and, in some cases, devastated the traditional practices of indigenous people, including through removing control over land and natural resources,” he said.

De Schutter’s final report, which will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council next year, will form part of Canada’s official international human rights record.

In her statement, Aglukkaq slammed De Schutter, saying he had a “political agenda” and defended the Harper government’s changes to its northern food subsidy program.

In a meeting with De Schutter, she told him that she would look closely at his final report to see if he makes “any recommendations to activist groups to stop interfering in the hunting and gathering of traditional foods.”

She asked him “what stance he would take in his report on uninformed, international attacks on the seal and polar bear hunt that make it harder for aboriginal hunters to earn a livelihood.”

After meeting with De Schutter, who told her he did not visit a single Arctic community during his tour in Canada, Aglukkaq said she was concerned that he had not been “fully informed” of the problems with the discontinued Food Mail program that led to Nutrition North, the federal government’s new subsidy program.

Aglukkaq said De Schutter also made several suggestions “that would require the federal government to interfere in the jurisdiction of other levels of government.”

“It was clear that he had little understanding of Canada’s division of powers between the federal, provincial and municipal levels of government despite his extensive briefings with technical officials from the Government of Canada,” she said.

“Our government is surprised that this organization is focused on what appears to be a political agenda rather than on addressing food shortages in the developing world. By the United Nations’ own measure, Canada ranks sixth best of all the world’s countries on their human development index. Canadians donate significant funding to address poverty and hunger around the world, and we find it unacceptable that these resources are not being used to address food shortages in the countries that need the most help,” she said.

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