Ottawa expands Nutrition North to 37 more communities
But nothing changes for Nunavut and Nunavik
The federal government will expand Nutrition North Canada to provide full eligibility to 37 mostly First Nations communities as of Oct. 1 this year, Carolyn Bennett, the Indigenous and Northern Affairs minister, announced July 18.
Bennett made the announcement at the Inuvik Community Greenhouse, prior to an event the federal government describes as a roundtable discussion with northern, Inuit and First Nations leaders on food security in the North.
To pay for this expansion of Nutrition North, Finance Minister Bill Morneau, in his 2016-17 budget, has already announced extra funding: an additional 12.9 million in each of the next five years, starting this fiscal year, for a total of $64.5 million.
That extra money would be spent in addition to the approximately $66 million a year the previous Conservative government had already been spending.
And starting in 2021, Ottawa will raise the annual increase to an additional $13.8 million a year
That would bring total spending on Nutrition North to nearly $80 million a year by 2021.
This budget commitment roughly corresponds to a Liberal election promise that party leader Justin Trudeau made during a campaign event in Iqaluit this past: an extra $40 million over four years.
However, retail food consumers in Nunavut and Nunavik will see no change in current Nutrition North subsidy levels, and it appears that most of it will go to expansion of the program.
Of the 37 communities to get full access to Nutrition North this Oct. 1, 35 are scattered throughout the Northwest Territories, northwestern Ontario and the northern regions of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
The other two are Port Menier, a tiny village located on Quebec’s Anticosti Island, and Williams Harbour, a community on the Labrador coast located south of Black Tickle.
After Oct. 1, Nutrition North will subsidize eligible food products shipped by air to 121 communities in the three territories and the northern regions of six provinces.
For the federal government’s explanation of how Nutrition North works, see this page.
Meanwhile, a promised consultation exercise aimed at finding ways of improving Nutrition North has started — but the process is moving slowly.
Bennett and her staff held engagement meetings this past May and June in Old Crow, Yukon; Uluhaktok in the Northwest Territories; and, Rigolet, Labrador.
But June meetings promised for Kangiqsujuaq and Inukjuak in Nunavik have been re-scheduled for this September due to transportation problems.
Federal officials are supposed to visit Baker Lake, Kugaaruk, Iqaluit and Pond Inlet to talk about Nutrition North some time this year, but they have yet to announce any dates or venues.